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Radiocommunications Agency

In the years leading up to the early zero-zeros decade, Britain had the best policed radio airwaves in the world. This shining example to the rest of the world was largely attributable to the good practices applied by the Radiocommunications Agency. Although this was a government funded department of the Civil Service, it was not run as a bureaucracy with meaningless overbearing strict rules or any kind of zero tolerance nonsense. Instead, the radio waves were policed by relatively independent agents who were allowed a remarkably free hand in exercising judicious principles to maximise the usefulness of the electromagnetic spectrum and to minimise undue interference. The key feature was "Reasonableness", the word actually being ultimately included in the statute books!

Most radio interference is the result of malfunctioning equipment and incompatibility, not the result of radio piracy or deliberate misuse. So essentially the radio agents were usually patrolling around trying to ferret out faults, rather than being primarily out to apprehend offenders whom to blame.

Even in cases where a person was culpably guilty of a radio offence, they were generally not hauled away and locked up but were tactfully interviewed and given a reasonable chance to change their behaviour. Interestingly, this almost always resulted in the problem being cleared up, and only seldom were offenders punished, as a last resort.

Admittedly part of the ability to apply such a principle to a regulatory environment was resultant in the very nature of radio, in that there is generally no lasting damage after the offending equipment is turned off, there is also a real component of success in the good sense reasonableness involved in the administration of the rules and guiding principles, in contrast to strict rule enforcement systems where there is no flexibility.

Taking account of action and reaction was also a feature of the way radio was run, a stark contrast to various failing "war against [whatever]" systems where the legislators rub people up the wrong way so badly they actually make the problems much worse! To take an example, during the era when CB Citizens Band radio was fashionable, the UK didn't take a hard line prohibition stance (which would have glamorised the genre and made the authorities into the baddies versus a celebrated rebel movement), nor did the UK let the radio situation go into an unregulated mode where it would have been the law of who shouts loudest. Instead, a wise set of moderate rules were introduced in which CB was allowed within reason but was licenced. Effectively, a potentially messy situation was averted and defused without fuss.

CommunicationTowards the end of the Radiocommunications Agency era, high tech equipment and four dimensional radio maps were in use and the airwaves utilised to a level of efficiency which was ahead of its time.

The story hasn't a happy ending, as the government abolished the Radiocommunication Agency and replaced it with Ofcom, who, in line with government policy at the time, was created with the remit of having presentation being more important than reality. This cost saving measure will ultimately cost society very expensively, especially when would-be radio pirates start to suss out that the airwaves are no longer effectively policed, and people whose neighbours have faulty electrics learn to their horror that complaints are no longer being dealt with properly and investigated, and that instead any problems are just painted over and classed as "solved" to make the figures look better.

Incidentally, when Ofcom took over, they imposed draconian gagging orders on members of staff who were made redundant, meaning they could not speak freely of any issues of mismanagement they encountered and/or had suffered, upon pain of having their pensioning-off pay forfeited! For the avoidance of doubt, I can tell you I have never worked for Ofcom nor for the Radiocommunications Agency, and the information I have has been acquired from various sources within the industry. However, I have passed the Radio exam myself, so I can tell you a few helpful things on what to do about radio interference

Although the Radiocommunications Agency is officially no more (was www.radio.gov.uk ), history records the legendary example of good practices, so if any country would like to have the best policed radio airwaves in the world, they might consider looking at how the Radiocommunications Agency was run, and possibly recruiting a few of its ex-employees as consultants!