Top Five broadcast signal intrusions

If you have an FM transmitter that can overpower a licensed broadcast frequency, then you can take over the signal. Sadly, if you were a fan of the Oscar J. Noddleman books growing up; a special VCR or even a DVD player will not do the trick when you hit the playback of your home videos. You need that FM transmitter, just don’t get caught. Here are my top five broadcast signal intrusions and all of them were TV intrusions since so many that have happened on FM most of those were not well documented. I shall count them down from five to one.

5. Captain Midnight on HBO: Around 12:37 a.m. in the morning of April 27, 1986 during an airing of the 1985 movie “The Falcon and the Snowman; HBO had its satellite feed from Long Island hijacked by a man who called himself “Captain Midnight.” The movie was replaced by SD SMPTE color bars with the following message imposed on the screen, “GoodEvening HBO. From Captain Midnight. $12.99/ Month? No Way! [Showtime/Movie Channel Beware!]” This message lasted about four to five minutes by viewers on the east coast. The pirate who highjacked the signal was caught and was identified as John R. MacDougall of Ocala, Florida. He pleaded guilty to the crime and was fined $5,000 and served a year of probation.

4. “Religious” takeover of Playboy Channel: Back in the day this “Adult Channel” only was active at night and overnight. Still someone with convictions felt the need to take over this signal and call for its viewers to repent. Right message but wrong way of doing it. The message appeared on the night of Sunday, September 6, 1987. The statement read; “Thus sayeth the Lord thy God. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. Repent for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” The message is taken from Exodus 20:8 and Matthew 4:17 of the Holy Bible. The culprit here was Thomas Haynie of Virginia Beach, Virginia. Haynie worked for the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) which was based in Virginia Beach and was on the clock at CBN when the hijacking took place. Haynie was convicted on two of six counts. He was fined $1,000, had three years’ probation and had to do 150 hours of community service. Haynie still claims his innocence regarding the signal intrusion. Meanwhile Playboy TV was able to go 24/7, and is still on to this day.

3. “Dead bodies are rising from their graves”: Whoever was able break into the Emergency Alert System in several states must be a fan of “The Walking Dead” or other zombie apocalypse storiesand thought it would be amusing if the EAS warned you about “dead bodies rising from the graves” and “attacking the living,” instead of a real-life apocalypse, severe weather, or an Amber Alert. After all we don’t need anymore “walkers.” On February 11, 2013, people watching KRTV (CBS) in Great Falls, Montana; WBUP (ABC) and WNMU (PBS) in Marquette, Michigan; and finally, KENW (PBS) in Portales, New Mexico got the EAS message about the zombie apocalypse happening in their respected towns. Well the authorities got the last laugh in the end because they were able to catch this EAS hacker. Right now, if their happens to be a zombie apocalypse, people might be doubtful because of this jerk.

2. Ashtar Galactic Command: ITV’s (UK) license holder in the 1970’s Southern Television(which served southern England) got an audiomessage from apparent aliens on November 26, 1977. Someone claiming to be Vrillon was telling the people that the age of Aquarius and we needed to live in peace with one another. This ‘alien’ interrupted an ITN News broadcast just to tell us this warning. It sounds like to me someone who belongs in a UFO or New Age cult back in the day. The hacker was never caught.

1. Max Headroom incident: This would be the best-known broadcast intrusion. They did a great job at creating a homestylemoving corrugated metal background similar to the real McCoy computer background of any official Max Headroom production. It happened twice on the evening of November 22, 1987. It cut into WGN-TV’s 9PM evening newscast during their sports report. There was ten seconds of dead air and a blank screen until the faux Headroom showed up. However, their engineers were able to switch the frequency of their studio link to their transmitter and good-bye faux Max Headroom. WGN’s sports anchor Dan Roan (who is still with the station today) then said; “Well, if you’re wondering what’s happened, ha-ha…so am I.” That hack lasted for about 20 seconds. Meanwhile faux Max was not ready to give up. Chicago’s PBS member station WTTW would have to deal with the poser as he cut in to their signal during the middle of a Doctor Who rerun around 11 p.m. This time faux Max was on for about 90 seconds. With no engineers at WTTW’s transmitter site, faux Max got away with his short program which included a likely erotic spanking. There were federal investigations and they gave faux Max fair warning that if this happened again, chances were that he would get caught. These two incidents were official documented ones and was reported by all the local Chicago news media outlets. Apparently, there was a third incident that was uploaded to YouTube in 2015. Faux Max hijacked a public access cable channel in North Reading, Massachusetts either early on the same day or after the WGN-TV and WTTW hacks. To this day the people responsible for the faux Max Headroom broadcasts were never caught.

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