If I read the tea leaves correctly New Brunswick has become the latest province to ban the use of handheld devices by drivers on provincial roadways. The legislation provides no exemption for the use of amateur radio equipment prompting “hysterical outpouring” from at least one local ham and snarly comments by readers in response that are appearing in the letters to the editor section of the province’s Times & Transcript newspaper.
We feel passionate about our hobby and are quick to defend it but as I counselled when I was VP of Public Relations for Radio Amateurs of Canada: This is not a fight we can win in the public arena.
Individual amateurs should be discouraged from firing off letters to the editor of newspapers or demanding petitions be sent to politicians.
The public and, in turn, the politicians don’t care about a bunch of ageing radio nuts who want to use their CB sets while driving to the beer store. Remember the general public just lost its own ability to talk freely on their precious cell phones (and in fact still do breaking the law in many jurisdictions) and have no sympathy for a bunch of hobbyists who want to talk to their friends.
Arguments that point out Amateur Radio’s long history of public service are long on vague references to participation and short on details which would add some credibility to our claims.
We aren’t obsolete. It’s worse. We’re considered irrelevant if considered at all.
It’s the same thing for the lame argument that provinces can’t legislate the use of radio equipment in motor vehicles. Whether they can or can’t is of no importance. The fact is they have and there’s nothing we can do about it (short of launching a million-dollar legal challenge). Repeating this dream in letters to the editor just muddies the waters and confuses the public.
What we should be doing is demanding our national organization mount a proper public relations campaign personally delivered by local regional directors or executive vice presidents who live in the affected regions to their politicians and other community leaders.
This isn’t rocket science folks.
We should be providing information to help guide legislation in those provinces which are considering banning handheld devices and creating a case for a permanent exemption in those provinces where legislation has already been passed. This requires someone to sit down and write out an argument supported by facts (such as a list of all the American and Canadian jurisdictions that exempted Amateur Radio along with supporting documents showing why).
Sending a letter, which RAC has done, is just not enough.
If fact, it’s less than enough, as it gives the impression that something is happening when in fact sending a letter like this is just a waste of paper.
If you want to write hysterical (or any other kind) of letters write them to your RAC executive and tell them what you think but don’t involve the general public in the discussion. They don’t care and nothing we can say will change their minds on this issue.