Log In

Not a Coast Insider Member? Sign up


The Bizarre Battle Between 'Captain Midnight' and HBO

The Bizarre Battle Between 'Captain Midnight' and HBO

If you've ever been aghast by your cable bill, you may be able to empathize with a Florida man who managed to hijack the satellite signal of HBO in a 1986 incident that remains infamous to this day.

The audacious stunt was orchestrated in response to the cable channel's announcement that home satellite dish owners would have to start paying for access to station.

Outraged by this news, a satellite uplink operator in the city of Ocala decided to demonstrate his displeasure with the premium channel in a manner which most certainly got their attention.

A little after midnight on April 27th, a spy drama titled The Falcon and the Snowman that had been airing on the channel at the time was suddenly interrupted by a test pattern.

Viewers soon realized that this was more than mere technical difficulties when they noticed that there was a message superimposed over the color bars.

The words, written in all caps, read "Good evening HBO from Captain Midnight $12.95 a month? No Way! [Showtime/Movie Channel Beware!]"

Although the disruption was soon noticed by a satellite technician from HBO, their attempts to overpower the signal emanating from Ocala resulted in something of a 'battle' as the two sides kept increasing their power.

After what had to have been an agonizing four-and-a-half minutes, the cable channel's broadcast was restored when 'Captain Midnight' finally gave up the fight.

The bizarre event quickly made national news and an investigation into the case by the FCC eventually led them to a man named John R. MacDougall, who confessed to being behind the Captain Midnight misadventure.

MacDougall's decision to cooperate with authorities was a wise choice, since he wound up only being fined $5,000 dollars and receiving a year's probation rather than the $100,000 fine and year in prison he'd have sentenced to if he had been found guilty in a trial.

On the 25th anniversary of that fateful night, MacDougall gave a rare interview to the website NetworkWorld and provided some interesting insights into his caper.

While he didn't necessarily regret taking over HBO's signal, MacDougall expressed some consternation that his message was misinterpreted as some kind of nefarious attack.

He also lamented that, once his identity was revealed, the subsequent media attention overwhelmed him and badly hurt his primary business, which was satellite dish sales, since he couldn't escape the notoriety of being Captain Midnight.

Source: NetworkWorld

More Articles