Because it uses an international natural resource--the radio spectrum--Amateur Radio must organize nationally and internationally for better mutual use of the radio spectrum among radio amateurs throughout the world, to develop Amateur Radio worldwide, and to successfully interact with the agencies responsible for regulating and allocating radio frequencies. The American Radio Relay League is an example of this organization on a national scale. At the international level, national societies throughout the world work together for the international good of Amateur Radio under the auspices of a representative democracy, the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU).
Created in Paris, France, the International Amateur Radio Union has been the watchdog and spokesman for the world Amateur Radio community since 1925. The IARU Constitution, last amended in 1989, organizes the Union into three Regional Organizations that correspond to the three administrative regions of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). The IARU Constitution also provides for an IARU Member Society to serve as the Union's International Secretariat.
The IARU's officials include:
President - Larry E. Price, W4RA LPrice@iaru.org
Vice President - David Wardlaw, VK3ADW firstname.lastname@example.org
Secretary - David Sumner, K1ZZ email@example.com
Secretary, IARU Region 1 - R. J. "Tim" Hughes, G3GVV firstname.lastname@example.org
Secretary, IARU Region 2 - Rod Stafford, W6ROD email@example.com
Secretary, IARU Region 3 - Keigo Komuro, JA1KAB firstname.lastname@example.org
Spectrum, the Life Blood of Amateur Radio
To exist, Amateur Radio must have access to the radio frequency spectrum. Without it, our radio equipment is like an automobile without a road or a boat without water -- interesting to look at, perhaps, but utterly useless.
Amateur Radio exists for the purpose of self-training, intercommunication and technical investigations. To accomplish these broad objectives, amateurs must be afforded reasonable access to the spectrum from the lowest frequencies to the highest. Yet, spectrum access is an increasingly valuable commodity. Commercial interests willingly pay billions of dollars for access to the frequencies they require in order to be able to sell telecommunications services. The radio spectrum is so valuable that even government and military users are under great pressure to relinquish frequencies for commercial exploitation.
In such an environment, how can we radio amateurs defend and expand our spectrum access? By definition, our interest in radio is not financial. We can hardly afford to compete, dollar for dollar, with commercial interests. Nor can we compete with them for attention; our individual voices are too weak to be heard over their extravagant claims and frenzied bidding.
The future may look bleak, but let us remember this: It has happened before, and Amateur Radio survived and prospered.
In the early 1920s it was generally assumed that radiocommunication could only take place over long distances using very long waves -- the lower the frequency, the better. Very large antennas and very high power were the rule at commercial and government stations. Then, radio amateurs found that short-wave signals could be heard all over the world. The rush soon began to exploit this newly discovered phenomenon. Radio amateurs, the very people whose experiments had revealed the value of the short waves in the first place, were in grave danger of being pushed aside.
At the time there were very few countries in which radio amateurs had been able to organize themselves into national associations. In many countries, Amateur Radio operation was actively discouraged or even illegal. Fortunately, there were far-sighted individuals who understood the problem and were able to find a solution. In 1925 they met in Paris and formally created the International Amateur Radio Union, or IARU.
Initially the IARU had individual members. Once there were enough members in a given country to do so, a section of the IARU would be formed. Soon there were enough sections of the IARU that it became a federation of national associations.
The first major challenge for the IARU occurred in 1927 at the Washington International Radiotelegraph Conference. Radio amateurs easily could have been forced into bands that would have been too narrow to support future growth. Instead, allocations were won that we still know today as 160, 80, 40, 20, and 10 meters, with a 5-meter band that was moved to 6 meters after World War II. The other amateur bands we now enjoy were the result of decades of patient effort through the IARU. From less than 30,000 radio amateurs who were licensed as of 1927, the Amateur Radio movement has grown to three million. From the representatives of 25 countries who formed the IARU in 1925, the IARU has grown to include 150 national associations representing virtually every country with enough amateurs to form an organization.
Individual radio amateurs support the work of the IARU through their membership in their own national IARU member-society. That support is vital to the future of Amateur Radio. The IARU is recognized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) as the representative of the interests of radio amateurs throughout the world. It is our voice in the offices and meeting rooms of the ITU and regional telecommunications organizations, where the decisions affecting our future access to the radio spectrum are made.
Most representatives of the IARU are volunteers. The combined budgets of the IARU and its regional organizations amount to just pennies per month per licensed radio amateur. Unfortunately, not all radio amateurs are members of IARU member-societies so the burden falls onto those who are.
All licensed radio amateurs benefit from the work of the IARU, whether or not they are members of their national IARU member-society. But every licensed radio amateur should be a member. Only by combining our efforts in this way can we ensure the future health of Amateur Radio, for ourselves and for future generations.