What Do People Listen to on Ham Radio?

Many still consider ham radio a complex, technical, and expensive hobby.

After all, listening to ham radio isn’t like tuning into your favorite DAB, FM, or AM stations. There are rarely any scheduled programs or friendly hosts to keep you company.

That’s because amateur radio is less about entertainment and more about communication and information.

Despite its slightly complicated barrier to entry, ham radio is more popular than you might think. The technology has been around for over 100 years, and about three million amateur radio operators are active worldwide.

The radio airwaves are buzzing with activity. Unfortunately, only a handful of people experience ham radio themselves.

As retro-style pop culture shows like Stranger Things have drawn more attention to the ham landscape, more people wonder what they can do with a ham license.

Here’s your guide to what you can listen to on ham radio.

What Do People Do with Ham Radio?

Old school ham radio on a table on a sunny day
People listen to ham radio for many reasons, such as for entertainment, communication, and news.

Ham radio is still a relatively misunderstood concept in the broadcasting world.

Though the community is growing, thanks to ham apps and simpler certifications, much of the ecosystem is still shrouded in mystery.

Most people are familiar with amateur radio for its most well-known and vital purpose: communication.

During times of crisis, fragile cellular networks and power grids can fail to keep human beings connected.

However, ham radio keeps running, connecting users worldwide through wireless, consistent wavelengths.

During emergencies, volunteer-based groups often help coordinate aid and assist people in their community using ham radio.

Ham technology can even keep us up to date on details about weather broadcasts and natural disasters.

But the uses for amateur radio extend outside of emergency scenarios.

Everyday people still use handheld radios as communication devices in scenarios where other frequencies might not be available.

Ham radio enthusiasts also participate in various activities, such as:

  • Digital signal sharing: Ham radios aren’t exclusively for voice communications. With some of the newer transmission technologies on the market, users can share things like pictures and graphs without needing an internet connection.
  • Distance dialing: Some radio operators participate in contests to see how many people they can connect with in distant locations. This is a fun way to make new friends in the ham community and learn about different cultures.
  • Moon bouncing: Certain ham radio fans also have fun with their tech by “bouncing” radio waves off the moon to extend their reach to new people worldwide. This takes some skill and practice, but it’s still a popular pastime.

What Do People Listen to on Ham Radio?

Deciding what to listen to on ham radio is much like figuring out what channels you want to peruse on a traditional AM or FM network.

It all comes down to your personal preferences, interests, and hobbies. You might not find a lot of music on these radio networks, but there’s still a lot of fun and entertaining content to tune into.

For instance, you can listen to:

Other People

One of the primary uses for gam radio is communication. These tools can pick up various local and faraway frequencies, allowing users to talk to many different types of people.

You could speak to astronauts in space or tech wizards from another country.

Various ham radio experts broadcast all kinds of content through their channels, from monologues about their lives to their region’s news.

This can lead to a very interesting listening experience if you’re willing to spend some time browsing.

News from Around the World

Ham radio can also be an excellent way for people from different communities to share news and updates about everything from natural disasters to political campaigns.

Amateur radio is frequently used for issuing public safety calls, so if you want to find out what’s happening in other parts of the world without relying on the news, this could be a good bet.

Organizations like the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the American Red Cross often use ham radios to receive information about how people are doing during natural disasters.

Weather Broadcasts

You’ll probably be able to find local weather broadcasts on most standard radio channels, so switching to ham radio isn’t necessary here.

However, there are specific emergency frequencies for ham radio where you can get more real-time updates on weather warnings.

NOAA, for instance, uses dedicated radio frequencies for disseminating weather-related information.

You can also use your radio to learn more about weather instances in other parts of the world, which might be helpful if traveling.

Ham Radio Club Content

As mentioned above, ham radio has become a popular hobby in many parts of the world.

Around 700,000 people in America alone have their own amateur radio license. Many of these people like to band together with other like-minded individuals to form clubs.

These clubs are usually filled with people talking about the nuances of amateur radio operations and other technical stuff.

If you want to learn more about ham radio, these clubs could be an excellent source of education and insights.

Ham Nets

Like ham clubs, ham nets are on-air gatherings organized by radio operators.

These are essentially regular programs, similar to the talk shows on your standard radio channels. Various operators join together to discuss a topic of interest.

Although these topics are sometimes related to ham radio itself, they can cover a range of other themes.

Tuning into these nets could be a great way to hear exciting and personalized commentary on topics you’re genuinely interested in, from sports to wellbeing or finance.

Emergency Services Content

Man wearing a blue hard hat and yellow construction jacket speaking into a walkie-talkie on a construction site
Emergency services use ham radio to keep in touch. Listeners can tune in and stay abreast of emergency services updates.

Tuning into content shared by the emergency services, such as ambulances, fire marshals, and police scanners, is a grey area in the ham radio community.

While it’s legal to listen to most broadcasts in the US, certain countries forbid this kind of content.

Listening to police radio and other emergency services broadcasts can be interesting, particularly if you want to learn more about major events in your local area or worldwide.

Just be careful about how much information you collect and share.

What to Listen to on Ham Radio: Finding Frequencies

The biggest challenge most beginners face when figuring out what to listen to on ham radio is finding the right frequencies.

Navigating isn’t as simple as scanning through channels on your standard AM/FM or digital radio system.

Ham radio broadcasts are aired over various bands, including 50-MHz, 144-MHz, 440-(430) MHz, and 1.2GHz.

For most people, the most popular option is the 2-meter (144-MHz) band. That’s where you’re likely to find a lot of other amateur radio operators and public safety calls.

The frequencies you can access and the content they include will vary depending on several factors, including your technology and region.

A good way to find interesting frequencies is to contact a local ham club in your area.

These clubs generally record listings of valuable frequencies with insights into what you can expect to hear.

They’ll be able to show you where to look for weekly programs, weather emergencies, and general conversations.

If you can’t find a local club to help you, search for libraries and databases online. Radioreference.com is one of the world’s largest databases of amateur radio today. You can enter your zip code or state name to retrieve a local database.

ARRL also has an extensive database of registered ham radio nets on its site.

Exploring the World of Ham Radio

While ham radio doesn’t offer the same listening experience as standard FM, AM, DAB, and internet radio channels, it’s still a great source of information and entertainment for many people.

You can use it to stay in the loop with gossip and chat from people worldwide or to tune into updates on natural disasters and weather emergencies.

You can even use ham radio to listen to club broadcasts or police scanner content.

Once you’ve learned to use amateur radio effectively, the world is your oyster. You can explore as much or as little as you like and network with others to expand your content horizons.

Just make sure you’re following the rules of the amateur radio community. You’ll need to earn your license before you dive in, or you could risk a severe fine.

Similar Posts