Saturday, January 06, 2007

Broadcast Signal Intrustion

I try not to stick too many YouTube videos on here -- it gets repetative, slows down the page loading time, and seems sort of a cheap thing to do -- but this is a particularly strange one with an interesting history.

On November 22, 1987, the only two successful cases of "broadcast signal intrusion" ocurred. During the 9:00pm WGN news broadcast, somebody managed to hijack the signal and insert their own video signal into the program. The signal was without audio and only lasted for twenty seconds; engineers quickly corrected the problem.

But the same hijack was attempted at 11:15pm on WTTW, this time with audio. Since the engineers weren't on duty, the inserted signal seemed to run its course...this time with audio. Nobody knows who the hijackers were, but whoever they were, they were very very strange.

Here's a recording of the incident, which occurs during a broadcast of Doctor Who's "Horror of Fang Rock."

Yes, he's wearing a Max Headroom mask and his voice is being pitch-shifted. Here's what some folks think he is actually saying, and for more information visit this site.
"He's a freaky nerd!"

"This guy's better than Chuck Swirsky." [another WGN sportscaster at the time]

"Oh Jesus!"

"Catch the wave..." [reference to a Coke commercial at the time of which Max Headroom was a spokesperson]

"Your love is fading..."

"I stole CBS."

"Oh, I just made a giant masterpiece printed all over the greatest world newspaper nerds." [??]

"My brother [mother?] is wearing the other one."

"It's dirty..."

"They're coming to get me..."

Incidentally, I loved Max Headroom. Hey, I was young, but after he teamed up with Art of Noise for "Paranoimia" -- a video which really messed up THIS 14-year-old's head -- I was hooked:

I even switched to Coca-Cola. It was at a time when people still thought he was computer generated, which made everything all the more mysterious. And the TV show was darn good too.

Also incidentally, "Horror of Fang Rock" is one of the best Doctor Who serials out there. Made during the Hinchcliffe-Holmes era -- when their mandate was "let's scare the little buggers" -- "Fang Rock" was one of a series of particularly nasty, out-of-control programs that eventually lead to Philip Hinchcliffe's ouster. And yes, it terrified me, and it's disturbing to watch even now. It's been given the full DVD restoration treatment. Sadly the Max Headroom video isn't part of it.


VanillaJ said...

That TV pirate is pretty awesome. I first thought that Max Headroom impersonator was part of the Doctor Who show, but then it went on too long.
Max Headroom scared me a little as a kid, kind of like a scary clown who wants to lure you into his van, but you run away because he's 'trying too hard'.

Anonymous said...

We have cleaned up the audio from this incident and discovered several new things. Including a dubbed on sound effect and also a womans voice...

Check out the new version at

Muffy St. Bernard said...

Great job! I've added a new post directing people to your site.