A broadcast signal intrusion is the hijacking of broadcast signals of radio, television stations, cable television broadcast feeds or satellite signals without permission nor license. Hijacking incidents have involved local TV and radio stations as well as cable and national networks.
Although television, cable and satellite broadcast signal intrusions tend to receive more media coverage, radio station intrusions are more frequent, as many simply rebroadcast a signal received from another radio station. All that is required is an FM transmitter that can overpower the same frequency as the station being rebroadcast. Other methods that have been used in North America to intrude on legal broadcasts include breaking into the transmitter area and splicing audio directly into the feed.
As a cable television operator connects itself in the signal path between individual stations and the system's subscribers, broadcasters have fallen victim to signal tampering on cable systems on multiple occasions.
Main article: Southern Television broadcast interruption
On November 26, 1977, an audio message, purporting to come from outer space and conveyed by an individual named ‘Vrillon’ of the ‘Ashtar Galactic Command’, was broadcast during an ITN news bulletin on Southern Television in the United Kingdom. The intrusion did not entirely affect the video signal but replaced the program audio with a six-minute speech about the destiny of the human race and a disaster to affect "your world and the beings on other worlds around you". The IBA confirmed that it was the first time such transmission had been made. None of the individuals responsible for the intrusion have been identified, although some people believe that the message could have originated from an alien race. However, others have pointed out that the fact the "alien" voice spoke with a British accent and the fact that the "aliens" only managed to hijack a TV station in rural southern England make it more likely the source was a local human, possibly even one or more broadcast students or a Southern Television employee, pulling a hoax.
Main article: Captain Midnight broadcast signal intrusion
At 12:32 a.m. Eastern Time on April 27, 1986, HBO (Home Box Office) had its satellite signal feed from its operations center on Long Island in Hauppauge, New York interrupted by a man calling himself "Captain Midnight". The interruption occurred during a presentation of The Falcon and the Snowman. The intrusion lasted between 4 and 5 minutes and was seen by viewers along the East Coast. The man, who during the interruption also threatened to hijack the signals of Showtime and The Movie Channel, was later caught and identified as John R. MacDougall of Ocala, Florida. He was prosecuted shortly thereafter. Authorities were tipped off by a man from Wisconsin in a phone booth at a rest area off Interstate Highway 75 in Gainesville, Florida. The man filing the report said that he overheard MacDougall bragging about the incident.
MacDougall's guilt was confirmed by an FCC investigation that showed he was alone at Central Florida Teleport at the time of the incident and a recording of the jamming video showed that the text was created by a character generator at that location. He was charged with transmitting without a radio license in violation of 47 U.S.C. § 301. MacDougall pled guilty and was fined $5,000 and served a year probation. Ambiguity about whether the 47 USC 301 charge was applicable since the transmitter had a license resulted in the passage of 18 U.S.C. § 1367 which made satellite jamming a felony.
MacDougall was able to perform the intrusion while working a second job as a master control operator at a satellite teleport in Florida, where he worked to make ends meet due to declining income from his satellite TV equipment business. He stated that he did it because he was frustrated with HBO's service rates and that it was hurting his business selling satellite dishes (hence his second job at the teleport). The message, placed over SMPTE color bars, broadcast by MacDougall read:
FROM CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT
NO WAY !
[SHOWTIME/MOVIE CHANNEL BEWARE!]
Main article: Max Headroom signal hijacking
On the night of November 22, 1987, an unidentified man wearing a Max Headroom mask appeared on the signals of two television stations in Chicago, Illinois. WGN-TV, owned by Tribune Broadcasting, was hijacked first. The intrusion occurred during the sports report on its 9:00 p.m. newscast and lasted about 25 seconds. Then came PBS member station WTTW, where the man was seen and heard uttering garbled remarks before dropping his pants, partially exposing his buttocks, and was then spanked by a woman wearing a french maid costume with a flyswatter before normal programming resumed. The next interception occurred at about 11:00 p.m. during an episode of the Doctor Who serial, "Horror of Fang Rock", and lasted almost 90 seconds. None of the individuals responsible for the intrusion have been identified. This incident got the attention of the CBS Evening News the next day and was talked about nationwide. The HBO incident was also mentioned in the same news report.
A broadcast of softcore pornography on the Playboy Channel was disrupted with a text-only religious message on Sunday, September 6, 1987. The message read, "Thus sayeth the Lord thy God: Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. Repent, the kingdom of Heaven is at hand" (from the Bible verses Exodus 20:8 and Matthew 4:17).
Thomas Haynie, an employee of the Christian Broadcasting Network, was convicted of satellite piracy in connection with the incident. Haynie, who pleaded his innocence, was the first person convicted under a new federal law which had made satellite hacking a felony following the Captain Midnight and Max Headroom incidents.
According to investigators, it was the religious content of the transmission and the type of equipment used that drew them to CBN. The jamming signal left behind subtle technical clues that were captured on a VHS recording made at the Playboy Channel's uplink at the time of the event – like finding "fingerprints" in the video. After investigators were confident that they identified the brand of transmitter and character generator from the video, they concluded that CBN was the culprit. Haynie, of Virginia Beach, Virginia, was on duty at his job as an uplink engineer at the time of the jamming.
CBN maintained that the FCC's case was entirely circumstantial since there were no witnesses and the signal could not be traced to a point of origin. During the investigation, experts on both sides attempted to recreate the incident with CBN's equipment. According to CBN spokesman Dino McCann they were unsuccessful. Furthermore, CBN asserted that there was not enough power for Haynie to jam Playboy's signal but during the trial, government witnesses said the CBN station was capable of interfering with satellite transmissions.
After initially being deadlocked, the jury eventually sided with the prosecution and convicted Haynie on two of six counts. (Haynie was acquitted of similar charges of interfering with the American Exxxtasy channel; a recording of the event was of such poor quality that it was unusable.) Haynie received three years of probation, a $1,000 fine, and 150 hours of community service.
In September 1985, four astronomers at Poland's University of Toruń (Zygmunt Turło, Leszek Zaleski, Piotr Łukaszewski and Jan Hanasz) used a home computer, a synchronizing circuit, and a transmitter to superimpose messages in support of the labor movement Solidarność (Solidarity) over state-run television broadcasts in Toruń, including an episode of 07 zgłoś się. The messages read "Dość podwyżek cen, kłamstw i represji. Solidarność Toruń" ("Enough price increases, lies, and repressions. Solidarity Toruń") and "Bojkot wyborów naszym obowiązkiem." ("It is our duty to boycott the election", referring to the Sejm elections of 1985) with the Solidarity logo. The four men were eventually discovered and were charged with "possession of an unlicensed radio transmitter and publication of materials that could cause public unrest". At their sentencing, the judge noted their prize winning work in the Polish scientific community and gave each of them probation and a fine of the equivalent of US$100 each (or 3,000,000 old złoty, 300 PLN in today's currency).
Broadcast signal intrusion was a common practice in the Soviet Union during the 1970s and 1980s due to the absence of and high demand for any non-government broadcasting. As early as 1966, there was a report of an incident in the city of Kaluga where an 18-year-old had broadcast a hoax announcement that nuclear war had broken out with the United States.
In the mid-1970s so many pirates were operating around the city of Arkhangelsk, especially at night, that local people were urged to telephone reports of violators to a special number.
Hijackers using call signs such as "Cucumber", "Radio Millimeter", "Green Goat", "Fortune", and others, would overpower the signal on relay stations for wired radio networks to transmit their programming, or transmit into wired radio networks during gaps in normal programming. Even though the incidents appear to have been fairly common according to reports from the BBC, most were not publicly acknowledged for policy reasons. Reports in newspapers typically referred to the hijackers as "radio hooligans broadcasting drivel, rudeness, vulgarity, uncensored expressions, and trashy music". State news organizations also attempted smear campaigns against such pirate broadcasters, claiming that they had interfered with a state frequency used by Aeroflot, "preventing a doctor in an air ambulance from transmitting information about a patient".
During the 2006 Lebanon War, Israel overloaded the satellite transmission of Hezbollah's Al Manar TV to broadcast anti-Hezbollah propaganda. One spot showed Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah with crosshairs superimposed on his image followed by three gunshots and a voice saying "Your day is coming" and shots of the Israeli Air Force destroying targets in Lebanon.
On the morning of Wednesday, May 17, 2006, the signal of Babylon, New York FM radio station WBAB was hijacked for about 90 seconds while the signal jammers broadcast the song "N----r Hatin' Me" by the 1960s-era white supremacist country singer Johnny Rebel.[better source needed] Roger Luce, the station's morning host, said at the time, "Whatever that was - it was very racist... 22 years at this radio station - I've never seen anything like this."
The incident made all the local newscasts that night. The next morning, it made the front page on Newsday with the headline "JACKED FM". The station's new general manager, John Shea, said, "I've only been here a week and we get hijacked." Former program director John Olsen said, "This was not some child's prank, this was a federal offense."
The hijack was likely accomplished by overpowering the studio transmitter link (STL) signal to the transmitter in Dix Hills.[better source needed] A signal hijacking with the same song happened to WBAB's sister station WBLI about two weeks earlier on a Sunday night.
In June and July 2017, Mansfield 103.2 FM, a local radio station in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, England in the United Kingdom, had its signal intruded at least eight times during outside broadcasts. During these intrusions, "The Winker's Song (Misprint)" was played. As of July 2017[update], the perpetrator had not been identified.
During the second inning from Game 1 of the 1988 World Series (known for Kirk Gibson’s famous walk-off Home Run) on October 15, 1988, an unidentified technician from NBC affiliate WMGT-TV in Macon, Georgia was fired after a 10-second sex scene from a random program was shown on-air during broadcast. The incident was recalled 3 days later that the incident is under investigation, as production manager L.A. Sturdivant recalled that the incident was just an accident. 
On January 3, 2007, in Australia, during a broadcast of an episode of the Canadian television series Mayday (known in Australia as Air Crash Investigation) on the Seven Network, an audio signal unexpectedly started playing, clearly saying in an American accent, "Jesus Christ, help us all, Lord." This same voice message continued to repeat itself over and over during the show for a total of six minutes. A spokesman for Seven later denied that the transmission was a prank or a security breach and claimed that the repeated line was part of the original broadcast and said, "Jesus Christ, one of the Nazarenes", although there is hardly any similarity between the two phrases. A subsequent investigation by independent researchers revealed that the invading transmission was actually from a videotaped news broadcast of a civilian truck being ambushed in the Iraq War. It remains unknown whether or not this was an intentional act of television piracy or a genuine glitch of some sort.
On March 12, 2007, during a 9 p.m. airing of an Ion Life rebroadcast of a Tom Brokaw-hosted NBC special, State of U.S. Health Care, on Phoenix, Arizona TV station KPPX-TV, a station employee inserted about 30 seconds of a pornographic film into the broadcast, prompting telephone calls to local news media outlets and the local cable provider, Cox Communications. Parent company Ion Media Networks conducted a rigorous investigation into what they called "an intolerable act of human sabotage", and shortly thereafter, announced that the employee found to be responsible had been fired, threatening further legal action.
On June 17, 2007, an intrusion incident occurred on Czech Television's Sunday morning programme Panorama, which shows panoramic shots of Prague and various locations across the country, especially mountain resorts. One of the cameras, located in Černý Důl in Krkonoše, had been tampered with on-site and its video stream was replaced with the hackers' own, which contained CGI of a small nuclear explosion in the local landscape, ending in white noise. The broadcast looked authentic enough; the only clue for the viewers was the Web address of the artist group Ztohoven, which had already performed several reality hacking incidents before. Czech Television considered legal action against the group, and tourism workers in the area expressed outrage (since the program serves to promote tourism in the areas shown).
On July 13, 2007, a grainy photo of a man and woman interrupted Washington, D.C. ABC affiliate WJLA-TV's digital or HD signal. The picture was not transmitted over the analog signal, however. The incident was deemed a genuine signal intrusion by various websites but has since been confirmed to be the result of an older HDTV encoder malfunctioning in the early morning hours and going undetected. Station management stated that the image was from an advertisement for The Oprah Winfrey Show.
On February 11, 2013, Great Falls, Montana CBS affiliate KRTV had their Emergency Alert System hijacked with a audible message warning viewers that "the bodies of the dead are rising from their graves and attacking the living." Later the same night in Marquette, Michigan and the early morning hours in La Crosse, Wisconsin, the same type of hijacking and reference to a "zombie invasion" was made over the EAS systems of CBS affiliate WKBT-DT, ABC affiliate WBUP and PBS member station WNMU during primetime programming. Shortly afterwards, PBS affiliate KENW of Portales, New Mexico was struck with a similar hacking incident, repeating similar information regarding zombies; however, this led to the arrest of the hacker of the four television stations.
On May 1, 2007, a Comcast headend replaced the Disney Channel's program Handy Manny with hard-core pornography for viewers in Lincroft, New Jersey. Comcast stated it was conducting an investigation into the event's cause but did not announce findings to the public.
On February 1, 2009, a second Comcast headend, in Tucson, Arizona, replaced NBC affiliate KVOA's signal with graphic footage from the pornographic video Wild Cherries 5 in portions of Arizona for 28 seconds, interrupting Super Bowl XLIII between the Arizona Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Steelers during the fourth quarter. Comcast claimed "Our initial investigation suggests this was an isolated malicious act. We are conducting a thorough investigation to determine who was behind this." KVOA also announced that it will be investigating the incident. On February 4, 2011, former Cox Cable employee Frank Tanori Gonzalez was arrested by the FBI and local police in relation to the case.
On April 20, 2012, three minutes of a gay pornographic film was broadcast during a morning news show on the Channel Zero-owned independent station CHCH-DT in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada for Shaw Cable viewers. The night before, a cable was cut; while it was being fixed on the morning of the incident, the adult programming was spliced into CHCH's feed.
On September 7, 2012, the Disney Channel once again was interrupted on the Dish Network, replacing 6 minutes of Lilo & Stitch with a portion of a hardcore pornographic movie.
On March 11, 2016, private satellite dish owners in Israel watching HaAh HaGadol (the Israeli version of Big Brother) on Channel 2 had their show interrupted by propaganda videos from Hamas. The disruption lasted a little over three and a half minutes.
During the 2020 United States Presidential Election, the radio station WWEI 105.5 FM (which is owned by Audacy, Inc.) (at the time Entercom) and serves Springfield, Massachusetts), was hijacked and interrupted with a voice that said "don't be a chump, vote for Trump". As of November 4, attempts to contact the FCC were unsuccessful.
A federal judge today ordered deadlocked jurors to resume deliberations in the case of a Christian Broadcasting Network technician accused of interrupting soft-porn movies with religious messages.
[Haynie] was convicted on one felony count of interfering with the operation of a satellite and a misdemeanor count of violating a radio license, both for the interruption of the Playboy Channel. He was acquitted of similar piracy charges regarding interruptions on the American Exxxtasy Channel.