Southern Television was the first known victim of television hijacking. On the 26th of November 1977 at around 5:10 pm, an "alien" managed to interrupt the broadcast of the local ITV station Southern Television via the Hannington transmitter. The voice overrode the UHF audio signal of the early-evening news being read by the late Ivor Mills from ITN.
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 "Gramaha" or "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, overriding the UHF audio signal of the early-evening news being read by Ivor Mills 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, aside from some picture distortion.
So how did “Vrillon” manage to spread his alien message on regional television? Surprisingly, it probably wasn’t via UFO laser beam.
The local television transmitter is the likely source of the rogue transmission. Unusually for a transmitter serving such a large area, the Hannington transmitter merely received and rebroadcasted a signal sent from Rowbridge on the Isle of Wight.
The story of most rogue transmissions usually ends with a clever misfit owning up and explaining how they did it. Sometimes they want fame, other times they want money. In the case of the Southern Television takeover, the motive was far more mysterious.
Nobody has ever come forward to confess to the “Vrillon” broadcast. In 1967, the Wireless Telegraphy Act was created in the UK, outlawing the kind of rogue signal used on Southern Television. Phreaks and hackers were warned that their mischief could land them with hundreds of pounds in fines, or even a prison sentence.