This blog started out, as its header says, to highlight the fact that ham radio does not need to involve huge amounts of money in order to enjoy the hobby and enjoy it effectively.
It also started out to challenge the way things are done, who represents us (if anyone), and promote a more dynamic response to the problems facing modern radio.
I often criticise RadCom, the RSGB monthly magazine, for promoting an elitist vision of the hobby through its reviewing of high-end equipment.
I've written for magazines for about 25 years. It's clear that 'reviews' are useful and interesting to the reader. But they are also highly-prized, free advertising for the manufacturer, if not the shops selling them. There is usually associated advertising set close to the pages containing the 'review' in most magazines. After all, magazines cannot exist without advertising. Indeed, they are better perceived as advertising publications, with some articles thrown in between. Facebook's free services in exchange for serving up advertising is not as modern a model as people imagine!
Despite this understanding of advertising, I'm genuinely disheartened, yet again, to find this month's RadCom reviewing a transceiver costing just short of £3500.
There is a lot of soul-searching that is endlessly repeated about the lack of newcomers and youngsters in the hobby. With the promotion of products like this through 'reviews', it is hardly surprising that the hobby appears out of reach to so many.
The problems facing the working age population today in the UK are many. Lack of remotely affordable housing (typical homes for sale now going for between 7 and 10 times average incomes - even the deposits are unaffordable.) Half the working population in expensive, insecure rented accommodation. Jobs are insecure, short term, zero hours and/or not very well paid.
With all these problems, £3500 for a hobby radio is, well, obscene. I can only imagine that, for the immediate future, radio manufacturers are trying to cash-in on those post-war generations that are in or about to reach retirement age. A bit like expensive 'luxury' ocean cruising holidays came out of nowhere as the population turned white-haired en-masse and looked for ways to enjoy the pensions they 'paid for all their lives' (except, they didn't; pensions of today are paid for from the current working population. Nobody expected people to have a 50:50 chance of reaching 100 years old and being in retirement for 40 years or more).
It would be wrong to say that RadCom never reviews the cheap end of the market. But it does seem, no doubt driven by the money to be made out of expensive equipment, compared to little or nothing from cheap Chinese or other products, not to cover them as much as it could.
There are things like the micro-BITX transceiver costing only $109 as a part-built kit. I haven't noticed a 3-page review of this yet. Then again, the small Indian cooperative that makes this unit doesn't advertise in RadCom. Could there be a link?
In fact, in my view, it would be much better to increase membership fees slightly to cover the cost of a magazine that is not so heavily reliant upon advertising. Sure, let's have some adverts, but let's also see a much greater focus on just how many effective transceivers and antennas can be made out of everyday materials at very low cost.