The Southern Television broadcast interruption hoax was a broadcast interruption
Broadcast signal intrusion
Broadcast signal intrusion is a term given to the act of hijacking broadcast signals of radio and television stations. Hijacking incidents have involved local TV and radio stations as well as cable and national networks.- Method of intrusion :...

 through the Hannington
Hannington, Hampshire
Hannington is a civil parish in the English county of Hampshire. It is situated between Basingstoke and Newbury, on the North Hampshire Downs in the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty...

 transmitter of the Independent Broadcasting Authority
Independent Broadcasting Authority
The Independent Broadcasting Authority was the regulatory body in the United Kingdom for commercial television - and commercial/independent radio broadcasts...

 in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 at 5:10 PM on 26 November 1977. The transmission itself claimed to be from an extraterrestrial being.


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
ITV is the major commercial public service TV network in the United Kingdom. Launched in 1955 under the auspices of the Independent Television Authority to provide competition to the BBC, it is also the oldest commercial network in the UK...

 station Southern Television
Southern Television
Southern Television was the first ITV broadcasting licence holder for the south and south-east of England from 30 August 1958 until the night of 31 December 1981. The company was launched as Southern Television Limited and the title Southern Television was consistently used on-air throughout its life...

, over-riding the UHF audio signal of the early-evening news being read by Andrew Gardner
Andrew Gardner (newsreader)
Andrew Gardner was a newscaster on Independent Television News in the United Kingdom from 1962 to 1977. He was also one of the original presenters of News at Ten when it began in 1967....

 from ITN
Independent Television News
ITN is a news and content provider with headquarters in the United Kingdom. It is made up of four key businesses: ITN News, ITN Source, ITN Productions and ITN Consulting. The ITN logotype can be displayed in any of 4 different colours, each of which represents a business unit. This is the...

 to warn viewers that "All your weapons of evil must be destroyed" 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
Looney Tunes
Looney Tunes is a Warner Bros. animated cartoon series. It preceded the Merrie Melodies series and was Warner Bros.'s first animated theatrical series. Since its first official release, 1930's Sinkin' in the Bathtub, the series has become a worldwide media franchise, spawning several television...

 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
Ultra high frequency
Ultra-High Frequency designates the ITU Radio frequency range of electromagnetic waves between 300 MHz and 3 GHz , also known as the decimetre band or decimetre wave as the wavelengths range from one to ten decimetres...

 transmitter was unusual in being one of the few transmitters which rebroadcast an off-air signal received from another transmitter, 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 transmitter 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 the 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."

Public and media response

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
Ufology is a neologism coined to describe the collective efforts of those who study reports and associated evidence of unidentified flying objects . UFOs have been subject to various investigations over the years by governments, independent groups, and scientists...

 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?". An editorial in America's 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.


The Winter 1977 issue of Fortean Times
Fortean Times
Fortean Times is a British monthly magazine devoted to the anomalous phenomena popularised by Charles Fort. Previously published by John Brown Publishing and then I Feel Good Publishing , it is now published by Dennis Publishing Ltd. As of December 2010, its circulation was approximately 18,000...

(issue #24) magazine featured a transcript of what they described as the 'short message' that was broadcast:

"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
Age of Aquarius
The Age of Aquarius is either the current or new age in the cycle of astrological ages. Each astrological age is approximately 2,150 years long, on average, but there are various methods of calculating this length that may yield longer or shorter time spans depending upon the technique used...

 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."

The Fortean Times article went on to criticise reports of the incident appearing in newspapers:

"Inexplicably the News Of The World and D. Mail call the owner of the voice 'Gillon, of the Ashdown Galactic Command' and that he said: "Unless the weapons of Earth are laid down, destruction from outer space invasion will quickly follow." I hope their regular news reportage is more accurate than that, for the indication is that they've simply invented a more shocking message."

Speaking on British commercial radio on December 6, 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.

Usage in popular culture

Author Nelson Algren
Nelson Algren
Nelson Algren was an American writer.-Early life:Algren was born Nelson Ahlgren Abraham in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Goldie and Gerson Abraham. At the age of three he moved with his parents to Chicago, Illinois where they lived in a working-class, immigrant neighborhood on the South Side...

 included a variation of the message in his 1983 book, The Devil's Stocking, a fictionalized account of the trial of Rubin Carter
Rubin Carter
Rubin "Hurricane" Carter fought professionally as a middleweight boxer from 1961 to 1966. In 1966, he was arrested for a triple homicide in the Lafayette Bar and Grill in Paterson, New Jersey...

, 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!"

External links

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