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News Gatherings and Amateur Radio

FCC rules, News and Ham Radio

During a disaster, media representatives sometimes use Amateur Radio as a source of information and news stories about conditions in the affected region.

Many Amateur Radio operators ("hams") are willing to provide interviews with reporters concerning information from the disaster site. In addition, reporters may wish to develop stories on Amateur Radio's role in disaster relief— handling health and welfare traffic out of the site, for example.  Most local emergency services groups or clubs will have Public Information Officers who will help you with this.

However, under Federal regulations, Amateur Radio may not be used for active news gathering or program production purposes.  For example, it would not be legal for a reporter to use Amateur Radio in a professional capacity to interview someone in another location. This is spelled out in Section 97.113(b), Title 47 of the Code of Federal Regulations. 

Amateur Radio operators are permitted to assist news media representatives in gathering information to be relayed to the public from areas where normal communication have been disrupted, particularly when the information involves the safety or life of individuals or the immediate protection of property and no other channels of communication are available.

The operator may ask questions of, or relay media questions to, Amateur Radio operators in the area. The responses may be electronically recorded by media representatives. However, Amateur Radio must not be used to assist the news media in gathering information when telephones or other commercial means of communication are available.

The news media may, of course monitor Amateur Radio transmissions.  But recording and rebroadcast under certain conditions (in or from war zones, for example) may not be legal or prudent.  Under no circumstances may Amateur Radio operators retransmit commercial radio and television broadcasts.

Applicable text of Section 97.113

Prohibited transmissions.

(a) No amateur station shall transmit:

(1) Communications specifically prohibited elsewhere in this part;

(2) Communications for hire or for material compensation, direct or indirect, paid or promised, except as otherwise provided in these rules;

(3) Communications in which the station licensee or control operator has a pecuniary interest, including communications on behalf of an employer [with certain exceptions].

(4) Music using a phone emission except as specifically provided elsewhere in this section; communications intended to facilitate a criminal act; messages encoded for the purpose of obscuring their meaning, except as  otherwise provided herein; obscene or indecent words or language; or false or deceptive messages, signals or identification.

(5) Communications, on a regular basis, which could reasonably be furnished alternatively through other radio services.

(b) An amateur station shall not engage in any form of broadcasting, nor may an amateur station transmit one-way communications except as specifically provided in these rules; nor shall an amateur station engage in any  activity related to program production or news gathering for broadcasting purposes, except that communications directly related to the immediate safety of human life or the protection of property may be provided by amateur stations to broadcasters for dissemination to the public where no other means of communication is reasonably available before or at the time of the event.

(e) No station shall retransmit programs or signals emanating from any type of radio station other than an amateur station, except propagation and weather forecast information intended for use by the general public and originated from United States Government stations.


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