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Ukraine accused of disrupting Russian satellite television

For weeks, satellite TV users in Russia have reported an uptick in dropped signals.

For weeks, satellite TV users in Russia have reported an uptick in dropped signals.

Russian broadcasters suspect foreign agents in neighboring Ukraine are to blame for a weeks-long campaign to disrupt satellite television broadcasts.

The broadcast interruptions began in March when a number of satellite TV customers reported they were unable to lock on to several channels, mostly news. It escalated early last week when Russian broadcast engineers said hijackers were transmitting with strong radiation to the point that they could not overpower their signals without damaging sensitive satellite equipment orbiting that part of the world.

The affected channels include Rossiya 1, Rossiya 24, Kultura, MTS TV and NTV Plus, which are distributed by satellite broadcaster Mobile TeleSystems. Some of the channels have posted messages on their VKontakte and Twitter pages warning viewers of the problems and encouraging them to find alternate ways to watch programming, including through broadcast feeds and web streams.

Broadcast intrusions are not uncommon in the region, but they have increased in size and scope since Russia began its military invasion in parts of Ukraine early last year. The intrusions have become more common over the last few months, with Russian communication experts blaming Ukraine for the issues.

Government officials in Ukraine have denied involvement in the signal intrusions, and have pointed the blame at pro-Ukraine groups who have admitted responsibility for signal intrusions in the past. Those intrusions included replacing the feeds of Russian news channels with pro-Ukraine propaganda, including a looped video that compared Russia’s military invasion to the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.

Ukrainian hackers have also been blamed as the source for several signal intrusions that have impacted a so-called “numbers station” broadcasting on shortwave radio and purportedly linked to the Russian military. The station, informally known as UVB-76, has been hijacked with audio files of Korean pop songs and scrambled audio tones that draw images when the signal is viewed under a radio frequency spectrum analyzer, Vice reported.

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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).