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Amateur Radio Licensing Consultation Research

Published:26 October 2005
Fieldwork:20 June 2005
Keywords:Amateur radio, Radio, Regulation
(Click on keywords to find related Research)

As part of its consultation on proposals to reform amateur radio licensing, Ofcom commissioned MORI to assess the views and opinions of a sample of licence holders.

The survey was designed to inform Ofcom's policy making and complement the findings of the formal consultation process.

A total of 4,500 amateur radio licence holders were selected to the sample and sent a copy of the questionnaire and accompanying materials. There were 1,572 completed questionnaires returned by the closing date of 20 June 2005. The survey covered holders of the three licence types — full, intermediate and foundation. The survey sought licensees' views on Ofcom's proposals and also provided information on the amateur radio community, such as membership of societies.

The full report is available on the Ofcom website.

Executive Summary

Opinions on future licensing arrangements

  • When asked which of four options they consider to be the best way forward for amateur radio licensing, 45% of licensees opt for life-time licensing. Just over a quarter would prefer to keep the existing licensing arrangement and the same proportion would prefer to replace the existing arrangement with a longer renewal period (26% in each case).
  • Only 1% of licensees think that the licence should be abolished altogether and fewer than 1% think the current licence should be replaced with something else.
  • Members of the Radio Society of Great Britain (RSGB) are equally likely to opt for a longer renewal period as they are to prefer life-time licences (33% in each case). Marginally fewer (31%) opt for retaining the existing licensing arrangement.
  • Those who are members of clubs other than the RSGB and those who do not belong to any amateur radio club or society are more likely to opt for a life-time licence (49% and 54% respectively) than retaining the existing arrangement (25% and 21% respectively) or opt for a longer licence renewal period (22% and 21% respectively).
  • Six in 10 of those who would like a longer renewal period would prefer a five year, just less than a quarter (23%) would prefer a three year and 10% a 10 year renewal period.

Opinions on current licensing arrangements

  • When asked specifically their opinion of the current licensing arrangement, two thirds of licensees feel it is "about right" on a five point scale ranging from "too strict" to "too relaxed".
  • Those who think the best way forward, from the four possible options, is to retain the existing arrangement are more likely than those who prefer life-time licensing or a longer renewal period to think the current arrangement is "too relaxed". Those who prefer life-time licensing are more likely to think the existing arrangement is "too strict".

Opinions on life-time licences

  • When specifically asked whether they supported or opposed Ofcom issuing "licences that remain valid for the life of the licensee", 58% claim to support this move.
  • This level of support rises to 93% among those who, from the four possible options for the best way forward, opted for the life-time licence. However, the levels of support for life-time licensing amongst those who opted to retain the existing arrangement or for a longer renewal period are lower at 27% and 26% respectively.

Opinions on electronic licences

  • When specifically asked whether they supported or opposed Ofcom's possible "move to an electronic (online web based) licensing process" just over two in five (41%) claim to support the move.
  • This level of support rises to over half (54%) among those who, from the four options for the best way forward for licensing, opted for the life-time licence. This falls to 19% among those who opted to retain the existing licensing arrangements.
  • The majority (86%) of licence holders use the Internet and 43% only use it at home.
  • One in eight (13%) licence holders does not use the Internet. Among those in this sub-sample, almost two thirds (64%) oppose the move to electronic licensing.

Willingness to pay to obtain a licence by post

  • Costs given as "reasonable" for the option to renew a licence by post range from free of charge to £50. The average cost is £11.67.
  • Amongst those aged under 21 or 65 and over the average "reasonable" costs given are lower: £8.32 and £11.04 respectively. Those who do not use the Internet gave a lower average "reasonable" cost (£10.54) than those who do (£11.83).

Willingness to pay for a Notice of Variation

Costs given as "reasonable" for obtaining a Notice of Variation range from free of charge to £99, with an average cost of £10.13. Those aged under 21 gave the lowest average "reasonable" cost (£6.78) and those aged 45–64 the highest (£10.80).

Research Methodology

One of the foremost decisions to be made was whether the survey was to be interviewer administered over the telephone or completed by the amateur radio licence holder via a paper-based self-completion questionnaire. Given the budgetary constraints and, after discussing this matter further with Ofcom, both parties felt that a self-completion format was appropriate provided it was carefully designed and the resultant sample weighted to the true population proportions at the analysis stage.

A total of 4,500 amateur radio licence holders were selected to the sample and sent a copy of the questionnaire and accompanying materials. Below, we outline how the sample was selected and the survey carried out.

There are three main types of amateur radio licence holders, these being:

  • Full
  • Intermediate
  • Foundation

The majority (83.8%) of licence holders have a Full licence. In order to ensure that there were a sufficient number of Intermediate and Foundation licence holders in the final samples to enable the views of the smaller groups to be understood, the numbers selected in these latter two groups were boosted. Thus a disproportionate number of Foundation and Intermediate licence holders were selected to the initial sample and, at the analysis stage, weighted back to their true population proportions to ensure that the final sample was representative of the overall profile of licence holders. In this way we could ensure that we had a sufficiently robust sample of those in each of the three licence groups to provide meaningful analysis of the results.

The table below shows details of the profile of the un-weighted sample and the weighting applied to correct for this boost.

Total Un-weighted sample Weighted sample
  1,572 1,572
  % (n) % (n)
Licence Type
Foundation 17.3 (272) 11.3 (178)
Intermediate 18.2 (286) 4.9 (76)
Full 64.5 (1,014) 83.8 (1,318)

Source: MORI

Ofcom, in close liaison with MORI a) ordered the sample frame of licensees and b) subsequently selected the samples. The entire sample frame of all licence holders was divided into three categories — one for each of the three licence holder types, these being Full, Intermediate and Foundation licence. Using the SPSS package, a random sample of licence holders was then selected within each of the three licence types to the required proportions.

Completed questionnaires were received from licensees across the whole of the UK (Q19). The table below shows details of the regional distribution before and after weighting.

Total Un-weighted sample Weighted sample
  1,572 1,572
  % (n) % (n)
Region
London / South East / East of England 32 (496) 32 (511)
North East England / Yorkshire and Humberside 11 (180) 11 (179)
North West England / Isle of Man 12 (192) 12 (183)
Midlands 16 (259) 17 (261)
South West England / Channel Islands 12 (183) 12 (183)
Wales 6 (99) 6 (102)
Scotland 6 (94) 5 (84)
Northern Ireland 3 (53) 3 (54)
Don't know / not stated 1 (16) 1 (16)

Source: MORI

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