The Southern Television broadcast interruption was a broadcast interruption through the Hannington transmitter of the Independent Broadcasting Authority in the United Kingdom at 5:10 pm on 26 November 1977. The broadcast message is generally considered to be a hoax, but the identity of the hijacker is unknown.
A speaker interrupted transmissions for six minutes and claimed to be a representative of an “Intergalactic Association”. Reports of the incident vary, some calling the speaker “Vrillon” or “Gillon”, others “Asteron”.
The voice, which was disguised and accompanied by a deep buzzing, broke into the broadcast of the local ITV station Southern Television, over-riding the UHF audio signal of the early-evening news being read by Andrew Gardner from ITN to warn viewers that “All your weapons of evil must be removed” and “You have but a short time to learn to live together in peace.”
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.
The broadcast took over the sound only, leaving the video signal unaltered.At that time, the Hannington UHF television transmitter was unusual in being one of the few transmitters which rebroadcast an off-air signal received from another transmitter (Southern Television’s 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 receiver could overwhelm its reception of the intended signal, resulting in the unauthorized transmission being amplified and rebroadcast across a far wider area. The IBA stated that to carry out a hoax would take “a considerable amount of technical know-how” and a spokesman for Southern Television confirmed that “A hoaxer jammed our transmitter in the wilds of North Hampshire by taking another transmitter very close to it.” However, like the Max Headroom broadcast signal intrusion a decade later, the identity of the intruder was never confirmed.
The incident caused some alarm locally, and attracted considerable publicity in the next day’s Sunday newspapers, with the IBA immediately pronouncing that the broadcast was a hoax. The IBA confirmed that it was the first time such a hoax transmission had been made.
The event was reported around the world with numerous American newspapers picking up the story from the UPI press agency.
The broadcast also 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 report of the incident in the Times, a letter to the editor published on November 30, 1977 asked “[How] can the IBA – or anyone else – be sure that the broadcast was a hoax?” The editorial board of one local newspaper—the Eugene Register-Guard—commented, “Nobody seemed to consider that ‘Asteron’ may have been for real.” By as late as 1985, the story had entered urban folklore, with suggestions that there had never been any explanation of the broadcast