CHICAGO A video pirate struck two Chicago television stations, briefly interrupting regular programming with skits featuring what appeared to be a person dressed as the high-tech TV character 'Max Headroom.'
The first interruption at 'superstation' WGN occurred during the sports segment of the 9 p.m. local news broadcast and lasted about 25 seconds.
The second break-in occurred at 11:10 p.m. on WTTW, a local public television station, during an episode of 'Dr. Who.' The interruption lasted about 90 seconds.
'Our transmitter was overridden,' said Ann Palmer, a security guard at WTTW. 'Someone had something much stronger than we had.'
Both interruptions featured a person wearing a mask of 'Max Headroom,' the computer-generated TV character. But the WGN break-in was tame compared to the WTTW interruption, in which the Max Headroom character displayed his bare buttocks.
'There was a caricature of Max Headroom that appeared on the screen and it was like a puppet,' said Jerry Malady, who saw the WTTW break-in. 'The puppet began to do all sorts of contortions in front of a moving background. He then tilted down, dropped his pants and somebody spanked him.'
Another witness to the incident said the person on screen was waving a can of Pepsi and saying, 'Catch the Wave!' The Max Headroom character was orginally used in TV commericials for Coke.
During the WGN break-in, the puppet swayed back and forth and the screen then went blank.
The Federal Communications Commission said it had been notified of the incidents and was investigating.
In 1986 the FCC tracked down a video pirate, John R. MacDougall, who broke into a Home Box Office broadcast on April 27 of that year. MacDougall, who sold backyard satellite dishes and billed himself as Captain Midnight, sent a computer-generated message protesting HBO's plan to scramble cable signal so it could not be intercepted by non-subscribers.
In a deal with the U.S. Attorney in Jacksonville, Fla., he agreed to pay a $5,000 fine and was placed on one year prpobation. He faced up to $10,000 in fines and a year in jail. HBO officials did not press any civil action.
MacDougall, 25 at the time, gained access to the HBO service while working at satellite uplink facility in Ocala, Fla., known as Central Florida Teleport.