1977 hoax TV audio transmission in southern England

Southern Television broadcast interruptionThe Hannington transmitter mast in 2006, from where the broadcast signal was hijackedDate26 November 1977; 45 years ago (1977-11-26)LocationSouthern TelevisionParticipantsUnidentifiedOutcomeUnsolved
The Southern Television broadcast interruption was a broadcast signal intrusion that occurred on 26 November 1977 in parts of southern England in the United Kingdom. The audio of a Southern Television broadcast was replaced by a voice claiming to represent the ‘Ashtar Galactic Command’, delivering a message instructing humanity to abandon its weapons so it could participate in a ‘future awakening’ and ‘achieve a higher state of evolution’. After six minutes, the broadcast returned to its scheduled programme.
Subsequent investigations showed that the Hannington transmitter of the Independent Broadcasting Authority had rebroadcast the signal from a small but nearby unauthorised transmitter, instead of the intended source at Rowridge transmitting station. The hoaxer was never identified.
The event prompted hundreds of telephone calls from concerned members of the public, and was widely reported in British and American newspapers. These are sometimes contradictory, including differing accounts of the name used by the speaker and the wording of their message.

On Saturday 26 November 1977, at 17:10 UTC, as ITN’s Andrew Gardner presented a news summary where he reported on clashes in then-Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) between security forces and Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army, the TV picture wobbled slightly, followed by a deep buzz. The audio was replaced by a distorted voice delivering a message for almost six minutes.
The speaker claimed to be Vrillon, a representative of the Ashtar Galactic Command (Ashtar being a name associated with extraterrestrial communication since 1952). Reports of the incident vary, some calling the speaker “Vrillon”[1]
or “Gillon”, and others “Asteron”.[2][3]
The interruption ceased shortly after the statement had been delivered, transmissions returning to normal shortly before the end of a Looney Tunes cartoon. Later in the evening, Southern Television apologised for what it described as “a breakthrough in sound” for some viewers. ITN also reported on the incident in its own late-evening Saturday bulletin.[4]

At that time, the Hannington television transmitter was unusual in being one of the few main transmitters which rebroadcast an off-air signal received from another transmitter, the Independent Broadcasting Authority’s (IBA) Rowridge transmitter on the Isle of Wight, rather than being fed directly by a landline. As a consequence it was open to this kind of signal intrusion, as even a relatively low-powered transmission very close to the rebroadcast receiver could overwhelm its reception of the intended signal, resulting in the unauthorised transmission being amplified and rebroadcast across a far wider area. The IBA stated that to carry out such a hoax would take “a considerable amount of technical know-how”[5] and a spokesman for Southern Television confirmed: “A hoaxer jammed our transmitter in the wilds of North Hampshire by taking another transmitter very close to it.”[2] The hoaxer has never been identified.

Public and media response[edit]
The incident caused some local alarm, with hundreds of worried viewers flooding Southern Television with telephone calls after the intrusion.[6] In the next day’s Sunday newspapers,[7] the IBA announced the broadcast was a hoax,[8] confirming it was the first time such a hoax transmission had been made.[9] Reports of the event carried worldwide,[10][11] with numerous American newspapers picking up the story from United Press International.[12][13]
The broadcast became a footnote in ufology as some chose to accept the supposed “alien” broadcast at face value, questioning the explanation of a transmitter hijack. Within two days of the incident’s report in London Times, a letter to the editor published on 30 November 1977 asked, “[How] can the IBA – or anyone else – be sure that the broadcast was a hoax?”[14] The editorial board of one American regional newspaper, the Eugene, Oregon, Register-Guard, commented, “Nobody seemed to consider that ‘Asteron’ may have been for real.”[15] By as late as 1985, the story had entered urban folklore, with suggestions there had never been any explanation of the broadcast.[16]
A 1999 episode of children’s television series It’s a Mystery featured the event, produced by one of Southern’s successors, Meridian Television. The feature reenacted the incident with faux news reports and viewers watching the incident play out at home.[17]

Usage in popular culture[edit]
Author Nelson Algren included a variation of the message in his book The Devil’s Stocking (1983), a fictionalised account of the trial of Rubin Carter, a real-life prize-fighter who had been found guilty of double murder. In the book, as a period of unrest within the prison begins, the character ‘Kenyatta’ gives a speech closely mirroring the Fortean Times transcript of the Southern Television interruption:

“I am an authorized representative of the Intergalactic Mission,” Kenyatta finally disclosed his credentials. “I have a message for the Planet Earth. We are beginning to enter the period of Aquarius. Many corrections have to be made by Earth people. All your weapons of evil must be destroyed. You have only a short time to learn to live together in peace. You must live in peace” – here he paused to gain everybody’s attention – “you must live in peace or leave the galaxy!”[18]
On his 2020 album, Common Sense Dancing, musician Duncan Parsons included a track “A Breakthrough In Sound” which describes the broadcast interruption from the fictionalised point of view of a person witnessing the event, watching television as it was happening. The underlying soundscape makes heavy use of Mellotron sounds.[citation needed]

See also[edit]



Pierre Louÿs


Channel 4

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