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FBI investigating possible broadcast signal intrusion at Indiana radio station

A screen capture of WXXR-FM's website. (Photo: Handout)
A screen capture of WXXR-FM’s website. (Photo: Handout)

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking into a possible broadcast signal intrusion at an Indiana rock format radio station over the weekend.

On Sunday, rock station WXXR began broadcasting a cryptic message warning that the United States government would soon “murder over 100 million citizens.” The message purported to originate from “Anonymous,” a loosely-organized online activist group collective in which some cyber intrusions have been attributed.

The message aired for over 30 minutes on WXXR, a low-power rock station serving the Terre Haute community. Station official Douglas Kirkham told a local news station that WXXR lost control of its broadcast for about 30 minutes Sunday evening. When an engineer reached the site of WXXR’s transmitter, “hackers” relinquished control of the station’s broadcast signal, Kirkham said.

The station recently celebrated one year of being on the air, and the timing of the message has led some listeners to believe the incident was a publicity stunt orchestrated by WXXR’s management.

On Facebook, WXXR denounced accusations that the incident was a publicity stunt.

“There will always be those that want to blow whistles that they truly have no evidence of, in order to publicize themselves,” A WXXR staffer named “Doc” wrote on Facebook. “Well, we have steamrolled past them before, and will not be slowed or moved by their jabs meow [now].”

The station included a link to a YouTube video that purports to contain the entire 30-minute message aired on Sunday. It was not immediately clear how the station tracked down the online source of the audio message so quickly, though “Doc” wrote WXXR was providing it to their audience in the interest of transparency.

Interfering with a licensed station’s normal broadcast operations is a form of signal jamming. In the United States, signal jamming is a crime that can carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

Jimi Tucker, a spokesperson for WXXR, told The Desk by e-mail that the station was working with the FBI and the FCC on the matter, but declined to provide additional information on the investigation.

FBI spokesperson Catherine Burton told The Desk the agency is investigating, but would not have any additional comments on the matter.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include comments from a WXXR spokesperson.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).