Southern Television broadcast interruption
|Date||26 November 1977|
The Southern Television broadcast interruption was a broadcast signal intrusion that occurred on 26 November 1977 in parts of Southern England. The audio of a Southern Television broadcast was replaced by a voice claiming to represent the 'Ashtar Galactic Command'. The speaker delivered 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. 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, ITN's Andrew Gardner was presenting a news summary. At 17:10 UTC, 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 hoaxer 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" or "Gillon", and others "Asteron".
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.
Speaking on British commercial radio on 6 December 1977, Sir John Whitmore also questioned newspaper reporting of the incident, referring to a recording of the complete broadcast which appeared to exist at the time.
A complete transcript of the message reads:
This is the voice of Vrillon, a representative of the Ashtar Galactic Command, speaking to you. For many years you have seen us as lights in the skies. We speak to you now in peace and wisdom as we have done to your brothers and sisters all over this, your planet Earth. We come to warn you of the destiny of your race and your world so that you may communicate to your fellow beings the course you must take to avoid the disaster which threatens your world, and the beings on our worlds around you. This is in order that you may share in the great awakening, as the planet passes into the New Age of Aquarius. The New Age can be a time of great peace and evolution for your race, but only if your rulers are made aware of the evil forces that can overshadow their judgments. Be still now and listen, for your chance may not come again. All your weapons of evil must be removed. The time for conflict is now past and the race of which you are a part may proceed to the higher stages of its evolution if you show yourselves worthy to do this. You have but a short time to learn to live together in peace and goodwill. Small groups all over the planet are learning this, and exist to pass on the light of the dawning New Age to you all. You are free to accept or reject their teachings, but only those who learn to live in peace will pass to the higher realms of spiritual evolution. Hear now the voice of Vrillon, a representative of the Ashtar Galactic Command, speaking to you. Be aware also that there are many false prophets and guides at present operating on your world. They will suck your energy from you – the energy you call money and will put it to evil ends and give you worthless dross in return. Your inner divine self will protect you from this. You must learn to be sensitive to the voice within that can tell you what is truth, and what is confusion, chaos and untruth. Learn to listen to the voice of truth which is within you and you will lead yourselves onto the path of evolution. This is our message to our dear friends. We have watched you growing for many years as you too have watched our lights in your skies. You know now that we are here, and that there are more beings on and around your Earth than your scientists admit. We are deeply concerned about you and your path towards the light and will do all we can to help you. Have no fear, seek only to know yourselves, and live in harmony with the ways of your planet Earth. We here at the Ashtar Galactic Command thank you for your attention. We are now leaving the planes of your existence. May you be blessed by the supreme love and truth of the cosmos.
This is the voice of Asteron. I am an authorised representative of the Intergalactic Mission, and I have a message for the planet Earth. We are beginning to enter the period of Aquarius and there are many corrections which 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... or leave the galaxy.
At that time, the Hannington UHF 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 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 should take "a considerable amount of technical know-how" 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." The hoaxer was never identified.
Public and media response
The incident caused some local alarm and attracted publicity. In the next day's Sunday newspapers, the IBA announced the broadcast was a hoax. The IBA confirmed it was the first time such a hoax transmission had been made.
Hundreds of worried viewers flooded Southern Television with calls on Saturday night after the voice interrupted the routine news programme for more than six minutes.
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 The 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?" The editorial board of one American regional 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 there had never been any explanation of the broadcast.
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.
Usage in popular culture
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!"
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.
- Barnett, David (22 November 2017). "Vrillon: The alien voice hoax that became a legend". The Independent. The Independent. Retrieved 18 June 2019.
- Paulu, Burton (October 1981). Television and radio in the United Kingdom. University of Minnesota Press. pp. 179–180. ISBN 978-0-8166-0941-3.
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- Sieveking, Paul (26 December 1999), "100 Weird Years (see number 34)", The Independent On Sunday, retrieved 13 September 2009
- "Bob Holness interviews John Whitmore". Space message on Southern TV. LBC Archive. 6 December 1977. Retrieved 21 September 2009.
I'd first like to refer to the recording itself of the complete message, one thing that struck me was that there was in fact nothing threatening whatsoever on the tape, and I was aware that most of the newspaper reports said it was threatening and frightening and so on, and so forth, and I just want to point out that that's sort-of a projection of the fears onto the material itself rather than the reality.
- 2012 A Family Brief: The Science is all in By Robert L. Horton
- Diary of a Mad Planet: Fortean Times Issues 16–25. John Brown Publishing Ltd. 1995. ISBN 1-870021-25-8.
- "From outer space at short range". The Guardian. 28 November 1977. p. 4.
- Sunday Express. 27 November 1977. p. 28. Missing or empty
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- Smith, Jack (6 December 1977). "Every Bloke for 'Imself". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 13 September 2009.
- "British Viewers Hear 'Message'". Ellensburg Daily Record. 28 November 1977. Retrieved 20 September 2009.
- "Earth listeners receive 'special message'". Rome News-Tribune. 28 November 1977. Retrieved 20 September 2009.
- "Fact or science fiction?". The Times. London. 30 November 1977. col Letters to the Editor, p. 17.
- "Pay Attention". Eugene Register-Guard. 15 December 1977. Retrieved 20 September 2009.
- "Galactic traveler issued a warning". Columbia Missourian. 21 March 1985. p. 4a. Retrieved 20 September 2009.[dead link]
- TheMeakers (1 December 2011). It's a Mystery: Series 3: Show 2: TXN 11.1.99. Retrieved 2 October 2016 – via YouTube.
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