The Max Headroom Pirating Incident

6 Jan

Late night surfing is always good for unique discoveries. A friend gave me a link to a page from the Something Awful forum, stating the following:

The film which you are about to see is an account of the tragedy which befell a Chicago Television network, in particular WTTW and its broadcast program, Doctor Who.

Followed by a quoted wikipedia entry on the same subject:

The Max Headroom Pirating Incident occurred on Sunday November 22, 1987 and is an example of broadcast signal intrusion.

The first occurrence of the signal hijack occurred during WGN’s 9:00 News. During Bears Highlights in the Sports report the signal was interrupted by a video of swaying black and white lines and a person wearing a Max Headroom mask.There was no audio. The hijack was stopped after only 20 seconds when WGN switched transmission from the Sears Tower to the John Hancock Center. The incident left sports reporter Dan Roan flustered.

Later that night around 11:15pm during a broadcast of the Doctor Who episode Horror of Fang Rock on WTTW, the signal was hijacked by the same person. It was the same video that was broadcast during the WGN hijack, but this time there was audio. The person in the Max Headroom mask interrupted the broadcast, saying “He’s a freaky nerd” before laughing and stating “This guy’s better than Chuck Swirsky!”. The person continued to utter strange phrases including a Coke advertising slogan (Max Headroom was a Coke spokesperson at the time), humming the theme song to Clutch Cargo (pausing midway to say “I stole CBS”), before finally undressing below the waist and was spanked by an unknown woman with a flyswatter before the masked person cut off his transmission. It was over in about 90 seconds. The pirate was never caught. WTTW, which maintains its transmitter atop the Sears Tower, found that its engineers were unable to stop the hijacker because at the time there were no engineers on duty at the Sears Tower. Also, the station’s master control center was unable to contact its transmitting equipment remotely to switch the STL (Studio To Transmitter Link), unlike their counterparts at WGN-TV, who were able to thwart the intruder by switching their John Hancock Center transmitter STL remotely within seconds.

WTTW and WGN join HBO as victims of broadcast signal intrusion. There has not been an incident of this kind since. The incident was reported on CBS Evening News.

As I was sure it would be Not Mentally Safe to watch it right before going to bed, I took a sneak pic today and it still made me feel uneasy. For those of you willing to click on the following youtube link to that very broadcast, which eerily feels and sounds like a Saw mock-up nowadays with the distorted lines and sound, brace yourselves: (also try to figure out what the heck he’s saying!) http://youtube.com/watch?v=2Xx5Mx2LJzs

The following night they had a special report concerning the intrusion. I wonder what would have gone on after such an incident on Greek tv. Plus, I would’ve been scarred for life if I watched that live.

Oh, as for the culprit… He was never found…

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One Response to “The Max Headroom Pirating Incident”

  1. enteka January 6, 2007 at 12:11 pm #

    v.interesting!

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