On 10 December 2013, the ACMA issued a notice as a result of a single complaint from a member of the public, the notice essentially requiring that I obtain a new call sign.
On 11 December, I sent a request for call sign recommendation to the WIA, and the documentation was received on 20 December expiring on 16 January.
An application for a new licence was posted to the ACMA before closing time on 20 December, the destination Canberra is overnight service for letters. The ACMA banked my cheque on 24 December and nothing was heard until 20 January when the new licence, complete with critical station address defect, was received (postmarked 17 January, overnight delivery). I advised the ACMA by phone of the defect before lunch and was assured that the replacement would be in the post later that day. The corrected replacement was received on 23 January, postmarked 22 January (overnight delivery again). In the event, the licence is dated two weeks prior to the receipt of a correct licence document.
It has taken more than six weeks, and on every occasions my action was required, it was completed same day. The process cost $93 in charges to WIA and ACMA.
This whole thing is driven by ACMA’s committment to state based call sign prefixes for the sake of train-spotters in the hobby when there is no administrative reason for the limitation, and the organisations involved are inaccurate and slow in their processing.
A side effect of this process has been that VK1OD.net containing nearly 600 original articles and design tools was closed down, not to be republished.
I did make representation to the WIA and ACMA in April 2008 when they sought comment on the proposed ballots for call signs, and well before I had any intention of moving from the ACT. In looking back, I can understand why the representations were ignored, the WIA earns revenue from the issue of call signs, and last year, the WIA president reported the organisation lost around $25,000 so it is unlikely to choke off easy money. The WIA is part of the administrative process, is a contractor to the ACMA and that creates a conflict of interest in its stated purpose to “represent[s] all Amateur Radio Operators in Australia to the various government bodies in this country”.
My submission of April 2008 follows:
A comment on the proposal.
1. there is recognition that so called 2 letter call signs may have some special value;
2. many people hold more than one of these call signs;
3. many are held and used by persons who are not ordinarily resident in the state related to the prefix of the call signs they hold;
4. the WIA proposes to charge fees for administration of the issue of these call signs;
5. ACMA already charges fees for change of call sign;
6. that other call signs might have some special value to the current holder for various reasons;
it is time that call signs were portable from state to state, ie that the state significance of call signs be removed, and holders of a call sign be permitted to change residential address and station location anywhere within the ACMA’s area of administration of the VK prefix without requiring a change of call sign.
What purpose does state significance of VK call signs have from a legal and administrative point of view? Can the government support the application of this restriction on state based allocation and use? If they are able to defend the regime, why have they not enforced it?
Call signs are not just a standardised form of station identity, they have become part of an amateur’s identity. You only need to review the WIA’s own news service and its other publications to see that amateurs are identified by the call sign, first name and less frequently, last name.
In my own case, that identity has extended to the distinctive naming of a web site (vk1od.net) that, with something like 250 odd original technical articles, is well known in the amateur community. Were I to change address to another state (as I may well), should I create confusion by maintaining the web site under a call sign I no longer hold, or just take the web site down. I doubt that I would do the considerable work in reviewing and revising the articles for no other purpose than a call sign change, I would almost certainly cease to publish the site so as to avoid the risk allegation of fraud.
I am aware that the state significance matter was canvassed in the ACMA discussion paper on licence reform. Their outcomes paper stated: “Few submissions commented on call sign arrangements. Of those that did, the majority suggested that the present structure of amateur call signs should be retained. The current practice of having call signs that denote the type of amateur licence and the state where the station is usually located provides useful information for propagation and self-regulation”.
The ACMA seemed to support the status quo on the basis of few submission and of those, the preference for state significance.
The proposed recognition of special value of certain call signs is reason for the ACMA to review the position on state significance of call signs, especially in the case of change of address of an existing holder of any call sign which the holder regards as having special significance.