This page is mostly historical, and may not be all that interesting to the young people on the radio today, but if you have been around radio for 20 years or so, you probably can relate..........

', '    There once was a time when anyone on the radio had
to have a license.  From the part-timer that came in on weekends to the
engineer.  There had to be a licensed operator on duty any time the
station was broadcasting.

back in the 1980's, this was changed.  The people on the air did not
need to be licensed anymore.  In fact, the technical people didn't even
need a license anymore.  Anyone that management felt like hiring, they
could.  And management was ultimately responsible for the station
operating in a legal manner.  Prior to that, if something went wrong,
it was the responsibility of the licensed operator on duty at the
time.  The station could be fined, but the operator would lose his (or
her) license, and could then no longer work in radio (unless under the
supervision of a licensed operator).


      There were several classes of license, but the two most important for broadcasting was the THIRD CLASS and the FIRST CLASS.  To be on the air on any station, you needed at least the 3rd class license.   If the station was a directional AM station, or over 10,000 watts, you needed a 1st class license.  And to work as an engineer, you needed a 1st class license.  And so, as I worked my way up the ladder of experience, I also aquired the required licenses along the way.


     Prior to 1963, you could be on the air with what was called and "Operators Permit", which only required you to register with the FCC.  No test was required.  Sometime in 1963, the rules made it mandatory for the 3rd class license.  Anyone with an Operators Permit that wanted to keep their job had to upgrade to the 3rd class.  I started in radio while in High School in July of 1963.  By the end of the year, I had to take the test for the 3rd class.  And so I present a copy of my original 3rd class license, issued January 31, 1964 with an expiration date of January 31, 1969.  You can view that license here.   (Note:  All licenses are displayed as PDF files and may take a moment to load). 


     On the back of each license was your Service Record.  Where ever you worked, you needed to have the station engineer or the owner or manager of the station sign off on your performance while employed at that station.


     Prior the expiration of my 3rd class license, I applied for a summer job with the telephone company as a technician.  In order to be eligable for the job, I need to have a 2nd Class license (sometimes referred to as a "technicians license").  While I was never hired by the phone company, I did take the exam for the 2nd class license and received it in January of 1966.  It is shown here with an issue date of January 28, 1966 and an expiration date of January 28, 1971.


     I should probably point out that if a license was upgraded or renewed prior to its expiration date, it was stamped CANCELLED.  If upgraded or renewed AFTER the expiration date, it was stamped EXPIRED.  There was grace period where your license could expire and you could still renew it without being retested.


     The various grades of licenses had certain tests that went with them.  The 3rd class was actually officially called the RADIO TELEPHONE THIRD CLASS OPERATOR PERMIT, and to aquire it you had to pass some very simple questions concerning rules and regulations for radio-telephone operators in what was called ELEMENT ONE and ELEMENT TWO.  Additionally, if you were planning on working in broadcasting (as opposed, for example, of working as dispatcher for a taxi company) you also needed ELEMENT NINE which was a "Broadcast Endorsement".  If I remember correctly each element for the 3rd class was only 10 questions, and they were very, very basic.


     The 2nd class license required ELEMENT THREE, and the 1st class required ELEMENT FOUR.  Many people considered element three the most difficult, which may have come from the fact it was by far the longest (as far as number of questions) and had lot of extensive radio theory.  Element four, while shorter, was much more advanced radio theory. 


     So, to backtrack for a moment -- in 1966, when I took the test for my 2nd class license, all I had studied for was element three, since that was the one I needed to pass at the time.  I had skimmed the material for four, but not really studied it.  I thought I may as well take three and four together, and predictably, I only passed the one I was prepared to take.  In 1967, I happened to be in Seattle again, and though I had not studied element four, I thought I'd try it again, and again, I failed.


    In late May of 1968, I decided if I was going to go anywhere in broadcasting it was time to get the "ticket".  During finals week of my Junior year in college, I used the study book for the FCC license as recreational reading when I needed a break from my college subjects.  One day I decided it was time, and so between exams (I was at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma) I drove to Seattle, took the element four exam, and then back to Tacoma for another college exam.  Two weeks later I had my FIRST CLASS license.  It had an issue date of June 5, 1968, with an expiration date of June 5, 1973.


     At the time of expiration, that first 1st Class license was renewed for another five years, beginning on June 5, 1973 and ending June 5, 1978.  Here is my renewal.  And, upon expiration, another renewal, spanning from June 7, 1978 to June 7, 1983.


     In the 1980's, changes in licensing requirements were being made at the FCC, and licenses were being phased out.  Anyone that had prviously held a 1st Class license, upon renewal, was issued a GENERAL RADIOTELEPHONE OPERATOR LICENSE.  The requirement that every station have a 1st Class license on staff was also being phased out of the rules.  My GENERAL license was issued initially from August 24, 1983 to August 24, 1988.  Upon expiration and renewal it was replace with a lifetime issued card by the same name -- GENERAL RADIOTELEPHONE OPERATOR LICENSE.  But, it really had no value, since all requirements for licenses had been removed from the rules.  What is does show, I guess, is at one time, I took my profession seriously enough to be licensed as was the requirement at the time.


     I have more recently added another license to my list.  And, proudly, this one still does convey some responsibility and has a value to me.  In June of 2011, I decided to take the test for my Amateur Radio License, and made the top grade of Amateur Extra.  And with that I now have the call sign of AE7NT.  I have not scanned a copy of this license yet, but will do so sometime just to add it to the lineup.


     This next license I post only for its historical value.  I did not know the individual named on the license.  I have since done a little research and have found he passed away in 1989, which probably explains why I have the license.  In the mid 90's, I purchased a used copy of the 1983 ARRL Radio Amateurs Handbook at used book sale at the Boise Library.  In that book was this license, issued in 1938.  If anyone knows any family of Harrell G. Peters, I would be more than happy to give the original to them as a memento of Harrell.  From what I researched, he apparently lived in the Caldwell area when he died in 1989.


One of my readers posed the question wondering when and why the license requirements were dropped by the FCC.  From Barry Mishkind's site I found the following:  (His homepage can be found here -- I encourage you to visit his site)


Licenses for Operators

(engineers) have been licensed for most of the history of broadcasting. The
earliest licenses appear to be more focused on the station than the operator,
but this was changed over time.

    • 1927: The Radio Act of 1927 included requirements that station
      operators be licensed.


    • 1934: The Communications Act of 1934 specifically required the
      FCC the license operators.

        • The primary license was the First Class RadioTelephone license (there
          was also a First Class RadioTelegraph license, but it was not good for

        • A Second Class RadioTelephone license was granted to some, but they
          could not operate a station on their own.


    • 1942: During the massive call-up for World War II, many stations
      faced going off the air, as many licensed operators were drafted.

        • Within months, lesser grade operators, including those holding a
          Restricted RadioTelephone license, were permitted to operate stations
          under the direction of the station's main First Class operator, called the Chief
          Engineer or Chief Operator. This started with stations running 100 Watts or


    • 1947: The accommodation for Restricted Permit operators was dropped,
      and First Phones were required again for all stations.


    • 1953: After lobbying by industry trade groups, a new class of 
      Third Class RadioTelephone Restricted Permits was set up that permitted
      operation of non-directional AM stations under 10 kW and FM stations with up to
      10 kW of transmitter power (TPO). At least one First Phone was still required at
      these stations and at all times for all other stations (even 250 Watt
      directional stations).


    • 1963: Observing the industry self-policing was inadequate, the FCC
      introduced a new Broadcast Endorsement to the Third Phone permits,
      turning them into licenses. Operating parameters were the same as the Restricted
      Permits, although FM stations with at TPO of up to 25 kW could now be operated
      by holders of this license.


    • 1968: The influx of combo operators (DJs in charge of the
      transmitters) as Top 40 and other music formats grew, led to another shortage of
      operators. A one year Provisional Certificate was designed to allow
      operation until an operator could be tested (the FCC usually gave tests twice a
      year in "outlying" areas).


    • 1972: Operation of high power and directional stations was now
      permitted by Third Phone (Broadcast Endorsed) operators. Stations now had to
      designate a Chief Operator who was to inspect the station regularly
      (i.e., within two hours of commencement of directional operation). A CO could
      only be CO at one station (or AM/FM combo)


    • 1978: From late 1978 to 1981, most all requirements were slowly but
      sure removed. The Restricted Permit was reinstated as the "normal" level of most
      operators, subject to the station's Chief Operator - who himself was only
      required to have a Restricted Permit..


    • 1980: The Third Phone was discontinued.


    • 1985: Under continued lobbying from the FCC, the First Phone was
      discontinued, as far as Broadcast use was concerned. Existing licensees were
      granted a Lifetime General Class RadioTelephone license.


    • 1992: The Restricted Permit was dropped, and anyone could operate any

Some more detailed information on the history of station and operator
licenses is found on Harold Hallikainen's site: