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Doctor Who and The Video Pirates

22 Jul

July 22, 2011

I love pirates! Love ’em! I have always wanted to be a pirate. Man, who wouldn’t? My family has a rich naval tradition and even to this day I still feel the allure of the open water. If I didn’t get violently seasick I may actually step on a boat once in a while.

But there are many different kinds of pirates. They don’t all have to take off in ships and try to capture cargo. I think it may be more feasible for me to become a pirate broadcaster.

I am not talking about broadcasting music from an old warehouse. There is too much of that nonsense where I live. Drive through some parts of Brooklyn and tool around the dial and you’ll find that, depending on where you love, there are anywhere from 1 to 19 different pirate stations blasting Jamaican music with the bass and echo pumped up to 15 like those guys in the Red Stripe commercials, just a lot less fun. The FCC makes a half-hearted attempt to shut them down but they are not that easy to find and they just pop up somewhere else. The fines for these things rarely seem to get paid and no one really gets in trouble. The only victim? Me. I can’t drive down the Belt Parkway listening to my iPod without island drums leaking through. At some spots on my ride the pirate audio is three times louder than the regular stuff it overrides.

What I would really like to be, and this is the sort of thing that the FCC is serious about and can land you in some hot water, is a pirate TV broadcaster.

Check this out:

That is from Chicago and it is interrupting a pretty good episode of Doctor Who. It is one of the more infamous cases of television piracy. What was it about? What was the point? Who cares, it’s funny!

From wikipedia, which I wish would get taken over by pirates. Then they’d have an excuse:

The first occurrence of the signal intrusion took place during WGN-TV (channel 9)’s live telecast of its primetime newscast, The Nine O’Clock News. During Chicago Bears highlights in the sports report, the station’s signal was interrupted for about half a minute by a video of a person wearing a Max Headroom mask, standing in front of a swaying sheet of corrugated metal, which imitated the background effect in the Max Headroom TV and movie appearances. There was no audio, only a buzzing noise. The hijack was stopped after engineers at WGN switched the modulation of their studio link to the John Hancock Center transmitter.

The incident left sports anchor Dan Roan flustered, saying, “Well, if you’re wondering what happened, so am I.”

Later that night, around 11:15 p.m., during a broadcast of the Doctor Who serial Horror of Fang Rock, PBS station WTTW (channel 11)’s signal was hijacked using the same video that was broadcast during the WGN-TV hijack, this time with distorted audio.The person in the Max Headroom mask appeared, as before, this time saying, “That does it. He’s a freakin’ nerd,” before laughing and jeering, “Yeah, I think I’m better than Chuck Swirsky. Freakin’ liberal.”

The unidentified man continued to utter random phrases, including New Coke’s advertising slogan “Catch the Wave” while holding a Pepsi can (Max Headroom was a Coca-Cola spokesperson at the time), then tossing the can down, and making an obscene gesture with a rubber extension over his middle finger (the gesture was cut off at the bottom of the screen due to the close-up of the camera) then retrieving the Pepsi can, and saying “Your love is fading,” before removing the rubber extension, then began humming the theme song to Clutch Cargo, and stating that he had “made a giant masterpiece for all the greatest world newspaper nerds” (the call letters WGN are an abbreviation for “World’s Greatest Newspaper,” in reference to the Tribune Company’s Chicago Tribune). He then held up a glove, said “my brother is wearing the other one,” and put the glove on. He then took the glove off, adding that it was “dirty.”

The picture suddenly cut over to a shot of the man’s lower torso. His buttocks were exposed, and he was holding the now-removed mask up to the camera while being spanked with a flyswatter by an unidentified accomplice wearing a dress, as the man exclaimed They’re coming to get me!”. The transmission then blacked out and cut off, and the hijack was over after about 90 seconds.

WTTW, which maintains its transmitter atop the then-Sears Tower, found that its engineers were unable to stop the hijacker. According to station spokesman Anders Yocom, technicians monitoring the transmission “attempted to take corrective measures, but couldn’t.” “By the time our people began looking into what was going on, it was over,” he told the Chicago Tribune. WTTW was able to find copies of the hijacker’s telecast with the help of Doctor Who fans who had been taping the show.

Believe it or not, this is a very, very rare occurrence. In fact, there seem to be only three events in the US. This is taken very seriously. Fines range from $100,000 to $250,000 and up to 10 years in jail so kids, don’t try this at home.

Below is the first try on WGN, with the anchor’s reaction.

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