Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The RSGB

Details are yet to emerge about the nature of the misconduct that led to the dismissal of the RSGB's General Manager Peter Kirby. However in one or two blogs and forums it is already being suggested that this should be an opportunity for root and branch change at the RSGB, a chance to get rid of the "old school tie brigade." I don't agree.

I may be an old fart now, but when I first joined the RSGB back in 1973 I was 20 years old and it was an even more traditional organization than than it is today. Most of the officers held two-letter calls that indicated they had been licensed since before the war. Radio Communication (it was years until it became the more trendy RadCom) had more of the air of a professional electronics journal. But did I feel that the RSGB was an old boys' club that should be run by more know-nothing-but-think-they-know-it-all youngsters like me? Did I write letters asking for Radio Communication to be dumbed down to make it more understandable to newcomers? No I didn't. The RSGB did have a bit of an air of being an elite group, but I was proud that it now included me. And instead of grumbling that the contents of Radio Communication were over my head I aspired to understand what was then a mystery. Unlike other radio services ham radio is a hobby with a long tradition and that is one of the things that is reflected by the RSGB.

I never attended an RSGB annual general meeting. But when these were held they were usually followed by a "black tie" dinner. I've seen Big Issue sellers more smartly attired than the average radio rally attendee and I have often wondered if these formal dinners were part of the same hobby. But the fact that I had no desire to attend such functions did not mean I felt they should not occur, or that the people who attended them could not possibly represent the interests of people like me.

I think the RSGB has done quite a good job so far, especially considering the differing and often conflicting demands of its members. Britain was one of the first countries to drop the Morse proficiency requirement and to introduce a licensing scheme that made it easy for the very young and those with limited technical knowledge to enter the hobby. These are hardly the actions of an RSGB dedicated to maintaining the status quo, to resisting change, to keeping ham radio an elite club of people who know code and understand circuit diagrams.

I don't think the misdemeanours of one salaried officer should be allowed to overshadow that achievement. One bad apple doesn't mean you must cut down the entire tree. We live in an egalitarian age where everyone's opinion counts and it seems that many want an RSGB run by people like them. I just wonder where that would lead. If you look at history, the times when Britain was great was when it was run by leaders who were in their 60s and 70s. Now the country is run by political careerists in their 40s and 50s and look at the mess we're in. We need an RSGB that can shape the future of the hobby but still respect the the past.
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