Broadcast vs. Ham Radio: Similar but Not the Same


Broadcasting and Amateur (or ham) radio are similar in that they both use wireless transmissions to connect remote devices. However, they are quite different in many ways — and not just how they sound!

What are the differences between broadcasting and ham radio?

Broadcasting is a verb.

Broadcasting is defined as “transmitting electronically produced radio or television programs to the public at large.” Broadcasting is a transmission that can be picked up by any device that is connected to the same radio frequency (or channel). Think of it like turning on a light switch and having all the lights in your house turn on. When you listen to the radio and you’re tuned into a particular station, you’re hearing all of the broadcasts on that station — whether they are music, interviews, traffic reports, or commercials.

In contrast, “ham” is a suffix for amateur radio operators and ham radio has been around since the early twentieth century when it was used to communicate during emergencies. The ARRL (American Radio Relay League) is an organization dedicated to advancing the interests of Amateur or Ham Radio.

Today, 2-way radios function on different frequencies than ham radio and they do not require FCC licenses. Two-way radios are designed specifically for business use, but they can also serve as an emergency back-up when cell service is done.

Keep in mind: There are thousands of things that you can do with ham radio besides communicating with other hams. There are satellites to be contacted, contests to be won, and even television signals that can be received almost anywhere there is an unobstructed line of sight to the horizon. Nothing is more satisfying than being able to sit back and watch your favorite TV show on your computer or even on your TV by using a simple digital decoder and ham radio antenna

Broadcasters and ham radio operators are both independent radio operators with no affiliation to a standard radio communications system or providers. This independence allows for the creation of their own communication systems rather than relying on traditional telecommunications services. Broadcasters use UHF and VHF frequencies in order to reach as many people as possible, as opposed to ham radio operators using HF frequencies in order to remain in direct contact with individuals. In addition, broadcast frequencies are more susceptible to interference while ham frequencies are more susceptible to distance limitations.


Broadcasting uses much wider bandwidths than ham radio. This is to accommodate more than one audio channel over a wide range of frequencies, as well as up to four video channels, in some cases. Commercial radio stations may also use two-way radios for news, talk shows, and sports broadcasts. Amateur radio, on the other hand, typically focuses on a single-channel transmission. The exception here is data transmission, which amateur radio operators have the option of enabling.

Broadcasting and ham radio do have their similarities. For example, the main purpose of both is for the user to communicate with others. Broadcasting is used for the transmission and reception of coherent transmissions through the modulation of electromagnetic waves, while ham radio is used for personal or group non-commercial communication by electromagnetic waves. With broadcasting, a “ham” operator is called a broadcaster and a “broadcaster” is called a ham operator. Ham operators use voice, data and other communications methods to link people or stations together. For example, they can be:

Additionally, both broadcast and ham radio have attracted some of the same types of users over time because of the fun and excitement being associated with them. Both also have a certain reputation for attracting certain personalities who tend to think outside the box and even rebel against “conventional wisdom.” I’ve met many broadcasters and hams who would certainly fit these general descriptions.

Finally, both broadcast and ham radio still have huge followings today. I’m sure you could think of one broadcasting station or one ham operator you recognize in your area that you could visit if you wanted to meet such an individual in person.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here