Broadcast signal intrusion is the act of hijacking broadcast signals of radio and television stations.
This is traditionally done by "pirate" radio stations that use powerful, unlicensed transmitters to broadcast over their local area - although historically some stations (such as Radio Caroline) have covered quite large radii, often by broadcasting from international waters.
Pirate stations usually exist to serve those groups who feel ignored by current broadcasts, whether for ethnic, political or cultural reasons and are rarely, if ever, profit making due to the extreme difficulty of obtaining payment for their services. That and the fact that no sane company would advertise on one if they expected to do legal business in the country that it broadcasted to.
This is mainly a radio activity - television has tended to have too high an entry cost, although sci-fi does throw up the occasional unlicensed TV station, usually of a deeply unsavoury character. With the rise of cheap digital filming and the internet, these become more likely, but arguably they then become narrowcast and non-intrusive (except as bandwidth pigs).
The other great meddlers with broadcasts are governments - totalitarian regimes make a habit of jamming external media, sometimes by drowing it out with their own propaganda, and even less obviously oppressive states may try to suppress 'obscenity' or 'hate speech' … or whatever else they disapprove of. Likewise, a hostile regime may well attempt to broadcast its own culture into enemy territory - as the Free World did for years against the Soviet Block and the Western Allies did against the Nazis. This is the other end of the jamming battle.
Game and Story Use
- What could be more fun than being a renegade broadcaster, sticking it to The Man?
- Or perhaps the player characters need to find the broadcaster, since he represents a vital link to terrorists or other criminals.
- During the Rwandan genocide broadcast media were used to incite the mobs to escalated violence: now imagine something like the New York or LA riots with one or more pirate media stations keeping the pot boiling - hunting the broadcasters down and bringing justice to them - or putting them on trial - could be interesting with the entire city in flames.
- The Arch Villain always takes over TV signals so that he can threaten/gloat/make his demands to the public at large. Simple notes to the police are for wusses.
- In much the same vein, the PCs could be hunting a broadcaster who is doing something similar to Untraceable, or broadcasting some other unsavoury content; although this is far more likely to be web based these days.
- Alternatively, combine this with a Basilisk Image and hilarity may ensue - even a radio station might get in on the act, broadcasting a live performance of something like the Massa di Requiem per Shuggay (of cthulhu mythos fame). Something like The King in Yellow or Gilles de Rais' Siege of Orleans could go out in either medium.
- The GM will need to do a bit of thinking as to how the villain avoids being DF'd and closed down - expect the PCs to spend a lot of time in bad neighbourhoods.
- You could even have a pirate radio station giving a running commentary on the campaign as per Warriors.
- As resistance fighters, the PCs may need coded messages in an outside broadcast to communicate with external patrons (e.g. WW2 resisters listening for SOE codes on the BBC world service) - and so need to keep their illegal radio receiver secret but operational. For a modern scenario, you can still use a customised radio receiver, or a satellite receiver that can decode blocked channels or some kind of web access that bypasses ISP level blocks.