To IARU Member-Societies

At its September 2018 meeting in Seoul the IARU Administrative Council discussed the past, present, and future of the IARU QSL bureau system.

The exchange of QSL cards by radio amateurs is a practice that is almost as old as radio itself. It began as postcard reports of distant reception at a time when two-way contacts over significant distances were relatively rare and the reports were valued as the best evidence of a transmitting station’s range. It developed into a social gesture – “A QSL is the final courtesy of a QSO” – as well as a means of documenting achievements.

IARU QSL bureaus – national-level clearinghouses for cards sent in bulk from one country to another – came about initially because the addresses of individual stations were not widely available (in part because amateurs in some countries operated without the benefit of a license) and international postage for individual cards was relatively expensive. For many years the QSL bureau system was reliable, inexpensive, and almost universal for countries with more than a handful of amateurs.

In recent years several developments have impacted the QSL bureau system:

  • Computer-generated QSLs have flooded the system with cards that are not desired by the intended recipients.
  • Amateurs have become more environmentally conscious and regret the large volume of undeliverable and unwanted cards.
  • Electronic confirmation systems, including but by no means limited to the ARRL’s Logbook of The World (LoTW), have reduced the necessity of collecting cards to earn awards.
  • Newer, younger amateur licensees are not as wedded to the tradition of QSL card exchange as their older counterparts.
  • The cost of sending packages of QSL cards internationally has increased dramatically.
  • Holiday-style “DXpeditions” and contest operations by visitors have burdened smaller bureaus with cards that cannot be delivered locally, causing some to cease operation entirely.
  • Budgetary pressures are forcing member-societies to reassess their priorities, especially in countries with declining amateur populations.
  • Some member-societies find it increasingly difficult to recruit volunteers or to pay staff or contractors to operate their QSL bureaus.

Administrative Council policy on QSL bureaus is set out in Resolution 85-9, first adopted in 1985 and revised most recently in 2009. In 2016 the Administrative Council sought the views of member-societies on the possible suppression of Resolution 85-9. With the exception of the IARU Region 2 Conference that year, which expressed support for the resolution while also endorsing electronic confirmation, there was very little response.

In Seoul the Administrative Council concluded that Resolution 85-9 should be replaced with a new Resolution 18-1 that better reflects the current situation. Because this represents a significant change in policy it is being communicated to member-societies in advance of the effective date of 1 January 2019.

Member-societies are invited to direct any questions or concerns regarding this change to IARU Secretary David Sumner, K1ZZ: secretary@iaru.org. Any expressed concerns will be addressed by the Administrative Council prior to the effective date.


RESOLUTION 85-9

(Revised 2009)

(TO BE SUPPRESSED EFFECTIVE 1 JANUARY 2019)

concerning QSL bureaus

The IARU Administrative Council, Auckland, November 1985,

  • recognizing that the exchanging of QSL cards is a “final courtesy” in an Amateur Radio communication,
  • recognizing that the cost of exchanging cards between individual amateur stations is prohibitive in most cases, unless an efficient international bureau system in operation,
  • recognizing that an amateur who sends a card via the bureau usually has no way of knowing whether the amateur to whom it is addressed is a member of his national IARU society, and
  • recognizing that most IARU member?societies operate incoming bureau systems that are available to members and non?members alike, but that some are unable, for good and sufficient reason, to provide service to non?members even it the expenses of doing so are fully reimbursed,
  • resolves that member?societies are strongly encouraged, whenever possible, to provide incoming QSL bureaus service to non?members within their operating territory, if such non?members agree to pay the full cost of this service; and if they are not already doing so, to explore appropriate means and methods for delivering QSL cards to non-members, and
  • further resolves that member?societies shall not forward QSL Cards to bureaus operated by non?members of IARU, if there is an IARU member?society in the country concerned that forwards cards to non?members who agree to pay the full cost of this service.

RESOLUTION 18-1

(EFFECTIVE 1 JANUARY 2019)

concerning methods of confirming (QSLing) radio contacts (QSOs)

The IARU Administrative Council, Seoul, September 2018

  • recognising that many radio amateurs wish to receive confirmations of the radio contacts (QSOs) they make with other amateurs, either in the form of physical QSL cards or by electronic means,
  • recognising that the cost of exchanging QSL cards between individual amateur stations in different countries can be prohibitive unless an efficient means of international bulk exchange is in operation, as has been the case for decades thanks to the IARU QSL bureau system,
  • recognising that systems for exchanging electronic confirmations now exist that are much faster and less expensive than exchanging QSL cards, and therefore are growing in popularity as additional or alternative methods of confirmation,
  • recognising that an amateur who wishes to send a card via the IARU QSL bureau system usually has no way of knowing whether the amateur to whom it is addressed is a member of his national IARU member-society and often does not know whether the other amateur wishes to receive cards via the bureau,
  • recognising that most IARU member-societies operate incoming bureau systems that are available to members and non-members alike, but that some are unable, for good and sufficient reason, to provide service to non-members even if the expenses of doing so are fully reimbursed,
  • recognising that many QSL cards that enter the bureau system are not desired by the intended recipients and may not be deliverable, either for this or some other reason, and
  • sensitive to the importance of avoiding the unnecessary environmental impact of QSL cards being printed, transported, and ultimately discarded without being delivered,
  • resolves that member societies are encouraged to continue to offer QSL bureau service in their countries, exchanging cards with the bureaus of other member-societies, for as long as doing so is economically justifiable, and
  • further resolves that amateurs are encouraged to adopt confirmation practices, including but not limited to using electronic confirmation systems, that reduce the volume of unwanted and undeliverable QSL cards being introduced into the bureau system.