DX University™

  A Guide for DXers and DXpeditioners

A Forward to the DXCC Rules

The WeeklyDX™ Helpful Hints No. 45 from the DX University™*


Let’s face it: The twenties and thirties style of operating recognition has been made obsolete by technology – and other circumstances. That was true a decade ago, and it continues today, at times more so. To some extent, award rules have never been more than guidelines. While manager of the Membership Services Department at ARRL, I frequently answered questions about “what is legal” with respect to DXCC rules. Because of advanced technology, some of the DXCC rules have become irrelevant or even obsolete. So when I was asked what was “legal,” I typically told people that in the end that they must create their own definition of how they apply the less-than-specific rules. Do you want to take advantage of every loophole, or do you want to maintain some particular criteria? Do you want to adhere strictly to the rules, or will you fudge a bit on those rules that no one will know about? Few will ever know.

Since many of the DXCC rules are in reality unenforceable, each individual must decide for himself just where to draw the line in taking advantage of that which award sponsors can’t control or enforce. DXCC Rule 9 allows you to make QSOs from anywhere within your DXCC entity. But is that fair? Should I make QSOs from another location, maybe across the continent? Can someone else make a QSO for me from his location? Even if I am at the other end of the QSO?

There are rules about where you can reside, rules about who can make a QSO from your station, or from where you can make a QSO. There are also rules about operating your station by remote control. The use of remote control is growing fast, and with the growth is coming many new issues to deal with. More about remote operation later.

The part of the QSO information that can be actually proved is little more than what is written in the QSO confirmation record. In the most basic case, that information consists of only time, date, band, mode of the QSO, and the callsign of the station that a DXer has worked. Everything else – your operating parameters – is taken in good faith.

So far, I have only touched peripherally on the matter of cheating. Some of the above queries relate to ethical variations, while others would clearly involve cheating. Now, don’t get me wrong: Though cheating is quite easy to spot – a QSO very unlikely to have taken place, for example – the vast majority of DXers don’t engage in such practices, but it does happen. I know. When the operator at T5X reports that two North American stations were louder on Topband than most of the Europeans he was working, you know something is amiss.

Many of the practices that were highly technical and difficult a decade ago are now easy and commonplace. The latest controversial technology is remote control operation. The currently available, Internet-connected hardware can make remote operation from anywhere in the world very simple. Yet, when a security screener at Hartford’s Bradley Airport tells me that “it’s the twenty first century” when he sees my Bencher paddle, whether we like it or not, the world may have moved beyond us. We will have to learn to live with it though, since there is no practical way to stop or even slow it.

And in many ways we don’t want to stop it. The advantages of remote operation are obvious when we consider that more and more developments are limiting the erection of outside antennas. Many of us are hampered by these regulations. Skimmer technology can make listening obsolete. Code readers are a mixed blessing. They bring more hams into the CW realm, but that technology isn’t quite up to speed yet.

How are we to deal with these issues? Bending the rules has always been practiced to some extent. The DXCC program was initiated in September of 1937. The first disqualifications for altering cards were revealed in June of 1939! They caught on quickly.

I believe most DXers already abide by the informal approach to the rules. Most of us have a keen sense of fairness. Building a large country total on 160 meters from a remote station on the East Coast and allowing people to assume the QSOs were made from the West Coast could be called a number of things, but fair play isn’t one of them. Yet it’s legal. You can commute to the East, or you can operate a remote station. The remote station has a place, but this isn’t it. I believe most would agree.

And this leads to the rub. Many DXers say “it’s only a hobby,” and “so what if they cheat, they’re only cheating themselves. But, we have lists. We have the Honor Roll. We have the Top of the Honor Roll. The ARRL web pages reveal all of our totals to the world. Those who abuse the rules are right up there with all the others. That’s not fair either. So how do we draw the line? Should we rely less on the lists that we strive to top?

Cheaters have been active since the beginning. As earlier noted, several newly minted DXers who were already missing from the DXCC listing in less than two years following the introduction of the first DXCC program. They weren’t mentioned by callsign, but quoting the author: “…we’ve decided never to mention them again on this page.” Since then, many disqualifications have taken place, more are due.

To put us all on the same footing might we articulate a “DXCC Rules Philosophy” right at the beginning? A forward to the DXCC Rules right after DeSoto’s fundamental October, 1935 QST article about how to count countries worked? Stipulate how we expect DXers to behave, and to bridge the gap between old and new, to create a less painful transition between coming technology and tradition?

For serious DXers, these are touchstone issues. No one can enforce all of the rules, but everyone should know what is expected. Let’s give honorable DXers something to point to when confronted with others’ who are less conscientious in their view of the rules. Such a preamble won’t stop cheating, but it will help to clarify our standards.

I expect you might have some comments. Please write to n7ng@arrl.net .

*The DX University™ is a day-long learning session for newcomers and old-timers wishing to hone their DXing skills. The next DXU session will be in Friedrichshafen next weekend, and following that, DXU and the Mile-High DX Association will present a session on June 27th at the Rocky Mountain Division Convention at Estes Park, CO. You are welcome to join us at future sessions. For more information on upcoming DX University sessions, visit www.dxuniversity.com