It has come to my attention that there are certain questions floating around regarding the authority, responsibilities and status of the repeater keeper.

In answering these questions, it may be helpful to define what a “Repeater Keeper” is. Although there appears to be no hard and fast definition, the situation is simple:

The Repeater Keeper is the licensee of all of the repeaters that are assigned to him. It is the licensee, and he alone, who is ultimately responsible for operating and maintaining the repeaters under his care.

The Repeater Keeper may recruit the assistance of other people and / or groups, but the legal responsibility for all matters pertaining to the repeater rests with the keeper.

So, how does one become a repeater keeper? Well, in our particular situation, where we have had repeaters for many years, it is by a process of inheritance; I took over the reins from GD3LSF when he stood down some years ago. 

In those circumstances where there is no pre-existing repeater coverage, the RSGB – as vetting agents for OfCom – will examine an application from an individual upon its merits and determine whether a repeater in the proposed coverage area is justified. The OfCom website has links to guide licensees in their quest and it is interesting, and indicative of their relationship with the RSGB, that the link “Guide To Radio Repeater Licensing” takes one squarely back to the UK Repeaters website.

If and when a repeater application is approved, it is licensed by issuing a Notice Of Variation (NoV) to the licence of the individual making the application (The licensee). There is NO provision for a repeater licence to be held by a radio society; it is invariably granted to a specific individual.

This licensing model ensures that the comings and goings of radio clubs and societies have no effect upon the licensing of repeaters.

It is my view that the RSGB hopes that the individual who takes-up the challenge of being a repeater keeper will obtain the support of the local amateur community, but it is not an absolute prerequisite. I believe that the authorities hope that local radio societies will view themselves as a “league of friends” to the repeater keeper (operator) and provide financial and moral support. It is, however, entirely possible that an individual repeater keeper could set-up and operate a repeater with no external assistance at all – and this is the case with a number of UK repeaters

The existence of external funding or other forms of support from radio societies, user groups or individual donations does not confer any rights upon those organisations or individuals other than to expect that such support will be applied appropriately. This is, again, similar to the league of friends analogy; when a league of friends donates a piece of equipment to a hospital, that does not give them any rights to demand to be treated using that piece of equipment should the need arise.

It should be obvious that a repeater or repeaters could not survive long without a support network. The relationship is a symbiotic one; The repeater keeper gets the support he needs to maintain the repeaters, and the local radio amateurs – including those who are not members of the group(s) supporting the repeater – get local radio coverage. It is worth noting that UK licensing forbids the creation of closed or “members only” repeater systems; they are open to all.

Returning to the position of the repeater keeper and his licence, it should be clear that, since the repeaters are included on his personal licence, they are a natural (and legal) extension of his personal radio station; when you use a repeater you are, technically, using the keeper's personal radio station and, as such, you do so on his terms, as well as those of OfCom and the amateur licence. This is no less than you would expect if a visiting amateur came to use your station.

The keeper has no right to tell any other radio amateur how to operate or configure his station, and he has no right to attend meetings or approach officials regarding the operation and/or maintenance of another radio amateur’s station. The reverse is also true; nobody but the repeater keeper is entitled to make any decision or representation regarding the repeaters on his licence.

The notice of variation document confers absolute discretion as to the operation of the repeater station onto the licensee:

"The licensee shall arrange that the repeater station is monitored from time to time to verify that it conforms to the repeater schedule and that the content of messages and signals is in accordance with the terms of the amateur licence.

It is acknowledged that the licensee is not responsible for the content of messages and signals received and retransmitted by the repeater station. However insofar as is reasonably practicable the licensee shall restrict the operation of the repeater station so as to limit the retransmission by the repeater station of messages and signals which are not in accordance with the provisions of the amateur radio licence."

It is with these clauses in mind that the AllStar repeater software used on the Isle of Man Network has been configured to keep an audio recording of all traffic on the system. This facilitates the identification of abuse or misuse of the repeaters. The second paragraph above clearly gives the repeater keeper the right to act as he sees fit, even to the extent of closing down the system, if he, in his sole discretion, determines that a breach of the licence conditions has happened or is about to happen or if he feels that the system is being abused or misused.

Having made this statement I will assume that, if you use any part of the Isle of Man repeater network, you agree fully and unconditionally to:

  1. Comply with the terms of the amateur licence and those additional conditions imposed upon the repeater keeper by his NoV.
  2. Comply with and abide by any reasonable request made by the repeater keeper regarding your use of the system (in particular, I would draw your attention to my article on courtesy).

Some of the foregoing may sound a little harsh but recent events have hardened my position, and I feel that it is important that everybody appreciates and understand the ground rules. If operators can accept these points and work with them then I will do my utmost to make their experience of the island's repeaters a good one. If, on the other hand you wish to criticise or attack me then I offer just one remedy - see how far you get on a simplex channel; there is nothing in your licence that obliges you to use a repeater.

So, to summarise:

The repeater keeper is:

  • The holder of the licences for the repeaters in his name.
  • Responsible for ensuring that the repeaters operate within the parameters laid down in the schedule to his NoV.
  • Ultimately the sole and final arbiter in any matter relating to the operation of the repeaters.
  • Accountable only to OfCom.
  • Entitled to return his NoV at any time, thereby revoking the licences for the repeaters. In this case a new application (from scratch) will be required if the repeaters are to be resurrected.

The Repeater Keeper is NOT:

  • Elected or electable.
  • Removable other than by revocation of his NoV - which can only be done by OfCom.
  • Replaceable, other than with his written consent.

For the avoidance of doubt, I presently have no wish to stand down as repeater keeper. Should the time come when I do want to retire, it is I and I alone who will decide whom to approach as my successor; it is nobody’s business but mine – and that’s the law.

David Osborn
IEng MIET
GD4HOZ
Licensee, Isle of Man Repeaters GB3IM and GB3GD