In Area 51, there were questions as to if GMRS and CB radio should be allowed. The overwhelmingly most popular answer was that they should be allowed, but not encouraged. Commercial radio was strictly banned, but the use of radio for the general public, including (US terms, but allowed for the non-US counterparts), Family Radio Service (FRS), General Mobile Radio Service(GMRS), Citizen's Band (CB), MARS (Military Axillary Radio Service), and Civilian Air Patrol (CAP). Limited use with non-licensed communications could also be allowed, if done in the spirit of Amateur Radio, such as SDR (So long as it isn't obviously illegal, or commercial).

The comment was made at Options for family short range communication in an emergency that "This question appears to be off-topic because unlicensed radio services are not amateur radio." Seeing that a discussion hasn't happened on this site since the beta started, I figure it's time to discuss if such topics are still allowed.


7 Answers 7


My thought is that such questions should be allowed, as they are providing a form of Emergency Communications, which is fundamentally what we are all about in the Amateur Radio community, or about tinkering, which is also encouraged.

That said, anything that is leaning towards illegal, immoral, or commercial, should be rejected.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ To say that amateur radio is "all about" emergency communications is a gross overstatement. They are some people who are all about emergency communications, but that's just one of many things that amateur radio is about. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 11:44
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ True enough, but it is one of the stated reasons for us having the frequency to use. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 12:05
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The reason stated by part 97 is, "Recognition and enhancement of the value of the amateur service to the public as a voluntary noncommercial communication service, particularly with respect to providing emergency communications." The question in question is not about emergency communications as a "service to the public". It's just about some guy talking to his family. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 13:26

I think any question which is likely of interest to radio amateurs should be allowed. The PMR446 one, for example, while not about amateur radio itself, is something that radio amateurs can offer advice on.

We shouldn't forget that a lot of people are introduced to amateur radio through CB, PMR446, GMRS, etc., so allowing questions that aren't /strictly/ about amateur radio may help facilitate that :-)

  • $\begingroup$ So what's "likely of interest?" Are you interested in broadcast FM transmission? I'm not, but maybe you are. People are interested in Amateur Radio for all kinds of reasons. Then, there are amateurs doing things with radios. Which are on topic? $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 23, 2014 at 14:37

I think the bands and services that you listed would be a good fit, mostly because where else would you go to talk about those sorts of things? CB is the only one that might have enough of a following to potentially create another stack exchange.

GMRS, FRS, and MURS are all low power, usually used for local or emergency communications, have low barrier to entry, have low tech users, and fit well with several concepts of amateur radio, if not a pedantic definition thereof.

I don't know much about CAP though; it may not fit, or it may be as awkward as CB.

I stumbled across this post looking to see if FRS and CB were discussed on this stack exchange.


§97, the rules that define the amateur radio service in the US, begin with "Basis and purpose":

The rules and regulations in this part are designed to provide an amateur radio service having a fundamental purpose as expressed in the following principles:

(a) Recognition and enhancement of the value of the amateur service to the public as a voluntary noncommercial communication service, particularly with respect to providing emergency communications.

(b) Continuation and extension of the amateur's proven ability to contribute to the advancement of the radio art.

(c) Encouragement and improvement of the amateur service through rules which provide for advancing skills in both the communication and technical phases of the art.

(d) Expansion of the existing reservoir within the amateur radio service of trained operators, technicians, and electronics experts.

(e) Continuation and extension of the amateur's unique ability to enhance international goodwill.

These five points outline the basis and purpose of the amateur radio service, and they can serve as guidelines for the topics here. Even though the FCC's regulations are local, the intent of the amateur service is largely the same globally. An international statement by the ITU would be better, but while the ITU defines amateur radio identically to the FCC's definition), it has no statement if intent that I can find. So, the FCC's statement of intent will have to do.

Does the question meet any of these intentions?

(a) Does it provide emergency communications as a service to the public? No. It provides emergency communications to one guy and his family. So does a cell phone.

(b) Does it advance the radio art? No. The question does not demonstrate any particular interest in how radio works.

(c) Does it improve the amateur service through rules? No. It's not about regulation of the amateur service.

(d) Does it expand the pool of experienced Amateur operators? No. It is not about advocacy or training.

(e) Does it enhance international goodwill? No. He is communicating only with his family.

There are many questions which may not be directly related to amateur radio, but have relevance to one or more of these points. For example, What is the difference between a scanner and a receiver? While this is a basic question, it does have relevance to "skills in both the communication and technical phases of the art." Although for all we know, the question could have been about public safety, aviation, marine, or military communications, it is equally applicable to ham radio. Likewise, questions about antenna theory, RF electronics and so on can be considered on topic, as they have direct applicability to "the art".

More examples which aren't specifically about just ham radio, but which are on topic here:


Some non-Amateur Radio are allowed. Here are the rules about what is allowed and not allowed here: https://ham.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic

Below are the pertinent rules. [Bold and italics mine]

Radio is on-topic. Applications of radio that are not Amateur radio are off-topic.

Questions are expected to be about Amateur radio specifically, or about the technology of radio. For example, questions may be asked here about:

  • radio propagation
  • modulation
  • antenna design
  • RF electronics
  • Amateur radio regulations (please specify jurisdiction)
  • Amateur radio operating procedure

There are many applications of radio that are not Amateur radio. For example, GMRS, CB, PMR, and all manner of commercial applications. Promoting understanding and skill in radio operation is a core mission of the Amateur service, so if questions about such services can be framed to be about radio in general, then they may be asked here.

Questions may not be asked here about:

  • broadcasting
  • wireless consumer devices (remote controls, low power FM transmitters, general wireless devices)
  • internet "radio"
  • engaging in activities which are blatantly illegal or generally considered harmful (such as radio jamming or transmitting without a required license)
  • shopping recommendations for specific products

Personally I am of the opinion that we should create an exception to specifically allow questions about emergency communications, even if the question involves non-licensed radio services and not amateur radio. I say this because I believe that emergency communications is very much in the spirit of amateur radio, and should be a concern of every ham operator. I think we would be doing the community a disservice if we were to exclude a question such as (theoretical) "Are FRS radios good options for family emergency communications in the aftermath of a large earthquake?"


Why being a stickler? Ask instead: where else should such questions be addressed? Electronics stack exchange is for general electronics, maybe you can discuss high power RF amplifiers there, but any questions about radio, licensing, etc. would be off topic there. If there is no other site and hardly ever enough traffic to warrant another site, then all radio related questions belong on this site. Consider also that the radio hobby started with the birth of radio, all that government regulation nonsense came in half a century later. So why the obsession about diminishing and confining the radio hobby onto its narrow selection of assigned bands and modes of use? Same for the discussion on CB, FRS, GMRS, where else are people supposed to ask questions related to that? Are CB, FRS and GMRS users not amateurs? Are they not hobbyists?

Why being a nit picker? Why not enjoy the hobby and curiosity about all bands and modes?


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .