March 27, 2006
At the recent club meeting, I acquired a copy of QST for January 1963. Where this story first appeared. Reading it again, I felt that it would be of general interest to the club membership, especially to those of us who remember the days before widespread cable TV when TVI could be a real problem, particularly if there was a Channel 2 TV station in your area. So I typed it up from the article and posted it here for all to read.
Also, for those of us who remember the movie and TV producer Alfred Hitchcock, this story has a “Hitchcock ending”. Read it from the beginning to get the full effect but it is not until the very last sentence that you understand what was really happening.
Reprinted with the permission of the ARRL. Copyright ARRL
THE TEMPLETON CASE
By Jack Najork K9ODE
From QST magazine January 1963
Authors note: The Templeton case is now history. It was reported in piecemeal fashion at the time because of the security measures involved. Copies of letters, telegrams and newspaper clippings tell the story far better than I can, and my primary purpose here is to present them all in the correct sequence. Those portions of the case not documented have been reviewed and approved by the principals involved with the exception of the late Godfrey Smith. Those portions of the history not included in clippings and letters have been reconstructed from the notes I took during the time I lived in Templeton.
Frank P. Stevens, Executive Vive President of
Templeton Broadcasters Inc, announced today that the FCC had approved the sale
of WKOO-TV to Godfrey Smith associates of
Godfrey Smith is well known in
engineering, business and political circles. He graduated with high honors from
Ted Collins, engineer on duty at WKOO-TV received the first telephone report four minutes after WKOO-TV began 7 A.M. programming. A viewer at Bonfire Hills reported the picture full of black lines. Seconds later, a second call came in, this time from the Bruno subdivision some twenty-four miles south….”big black lines in the picture…no, they don’t flash on and off… they just stay there all the time…my little girl can’t watch Droppet’s Moppets…
After that the telephone switchboard started to light up like a haywire pinball machine. By 8 o’clock as TV receivers clicked on in the 200,000-set market area of WKOO-TV, over a hundred reports of interference had been phoned in and the switchboard was jammed. A thorough check at the transmitter and studio showed the interference was positively external and, moreover, it was saturating practically the entire primary and secondary coverage area of WKOO-TV.
At 9 o’clock Ted Collins together with Chief Engineer Jerry Barnes and two other technicians, set out to take some triangulation reading with a Yagi antenna and field strength meter. They returned several hours later muttering to themselves and visibly shaken. Their efforts to take bearings on the interference had failed for a very simple reason. The interference showed absolutely no directivity!
This then was how it started. The date was May 1, 1958. Strangely enough, it was just four years earlier on the same day that WKOO-TV began operations. Until then, Templeton had been a ham’s haven, the nearest TV transmitter some 220 miles away. With WKOO-TV on the air however, the situation changed overnight. Most hams in Templeton were aware that they would now have TVI problems but they were totally unprepared for the events which followed.
Godfrey Smith, owner and general manager of WKOO-TV had powerful political connections at both local and national levels. Within a week, he had bulled legislation through the Templeton City Council which required all amateur radio stations in greater Templeton to pass inspection by the city’s electrical department. Pending such inspection and approval, all amateur operation was restricted to the hours between midnight and
7 A. M. When
Templeton hams openly refused to obey this ruling (now known as “Smith’s
midnight order”) Smith ruthlessly attacked the hams at the state level and only
quick action by the League stopped pending legislation at this point. Despite
Godfrey Smith’s powerful
Templeton became the city where it was best not to hint that you had an interest in ham radio. “Invisible” antennas became the vogue, along with shielding, filtering, low-pass filters and all the myriad accessories required to prevent TVI.
WKOO-TV engineers reported today that the strange interference which is blotting out TV sets in a forty-mile radius of Templeton has not yet been located. Godfrey Smith, general manger of WKOO-TV, reported that FCC engineers have been asked to assist in the search for the mysterious signal which was first noticed yesterday morning. WKOO-TV’s switchboard was swamped with calls from viewers shortly after the station went on the air yesterday and station officials have asked viewers to refrain from calling the station. Smith was confident that FCC engineers would locate and eliminate the interference within twenty-four hours. He further stated he believed that trouble was caused by an amateur radio sending set somewhere in the city.
Telegram from FCC Field Office to WKOO-TV. May 3, 1958.
AS OF THIS DATE HAVE BEEN UNABLE TO
LOCATE SOURCE CO-CHANNEL INTERFERENCE REPORTED THIS OFFICE BY YOU MAY 1. OUR
SURVEYS INDICATE INTERFERENCE SOURCE CANNOT BE LOCALIZED BY CONVENTIONAL MEANS
AND HAVE ASKED FOR ASSISTANCE FROM
John T. Harris
Telegram from Godfrey Smith to Honorable
FCC NOT YET LOCATED INTERFERENCE WE DISCUSSED ON PHONE YESTERDAY. WE MUST HAVE IMMEDIATE HIGH LEVEL ASSISTANCE IN LOCATING AND REQUEST YOU CALL IN FBI BECAUSE OF SUSPECTED SUBVERSIVE SOURCE. TRUST YOU WILL DO SO AND ADVISE ME.
News Item, Templeton Daily Star May 5, 1958.
Efforts by the
engineering staff of WKOO-TV and the FCC to locate the mysterious interference
now plaguing viewer’s screens for the fifth day have been without success.
Godfrey Smith, general manager of WKOO-TV, reported that he has asked the FBI
to investigate inasmuch as local FCC engineers have not made any apparent
progress in finding the strange signal. The FCC stated that more elaborate
tracking equipment is being flown in from
WKOO-TV has offered a $500.00 reward to the person or persons locating the interference which was first noted on the morning of May 1. Since that time reception of WKOO-TV has been almost been blotted out in the majority of homes in the greater Templeton area.
Letter from Hadley Consulting Engineers to Godfrey Smith. May 10.
Dear Mr. Smith:
We are enclosing detailed results of our survey of Channel 2 co-channel interference in the Templeton area in accordance with our contract terms. We regret to advise you this accumulated data does not enable us to reach a definite conclusion concerning the source and location of the interference. Our engineers have summarized their findings as follows:
1. The interference shows no directivity or polarization at 12 survey sites.
2. Field strength of the interference is generally uniform over a forty-mile radius centering on the metropolitan area of Templeton. Beyond this the radius, the interference drops off in a normal logarithmic manner.
3. Oscillographic observations of the demodulated interference signal indicate the power source is not synchronous to 60-cycle power generated by the Templeton Electric and Gas Company. This has been further verified by the May 8 power interruptions made by this utility in cooperation with our tests.
4. Frequency measurements of the interference show it to be relatively constant at 55 megacycles with short and long term frequency variations not exceeding several hundred kilocycles.
5. Spectrographic analysis of the entire usable spectrum indicate no other known signals are present to produce intermodulation products at the interference frequency.
6. In our opinion the interference is being generated and propagated in a manner entirely foreign to the current start of the art
We are, of course, extremely sorry to advise you we have exhausted all possible means of locating and/or identifying this interfering signal. Please extend our sincere appreciation to members of your engineering staff who cooperated during our tests.
Very truly yours,
Thomas F. Hadley, President
Hadley Consulting Engineers
News Item, Templeton Daily Star May 11, 1958.
Washington FCC engineers together with officials of an independent consulting engineering firm admitted today that no solution is in sight to the mysterious interference which has distorted ninety percent of the TV screens in greater Templeton for the past ten days.
The consulting firm was brought in by WKOO-TV on May 7 after local and Washington FCC officials were unable to find the strange signal. Mr. Thomas Hadley, head of the firm, today expressed the belief the unusual distortion is being and sent out by some method not known to radio engineers and for this reason his engineers were unable to offer a solution to the problem.
Godfrey Smith, general manager of WKOO-TV said he expected the FCC as well as the FBI to continue full-scale investigations until the interference was found and eliminated. He reiterated his original belief that the cause of the trouble is very likely an amateur radio sending set. Experts have discounted this theory however, pointing out that such a signal could easily be tracked down by conventional means. Reports that the strange signal is emanating from outer space were also discounted by the experts, although it was later admitted that no evidence is at hand to discount this theory.
A survey by the Star indicates approximately 150,000 of the 200,000 TV sets in the area are unable to receive a clear picture from WKOO-TV because of the interference. Just prior to press time WKOO-TV increased to $1000, 00 the reward offered for information leading to the source of the interference,
Author’s note: During the period from May 11, 1958 and late June 1958, no progress was made in tracking down the interference. Newspaper items on the topic continued together with many reader comments but most of this material was repetitious and is not included here, in the interest of brevity. It has been verified in early June 1958, the Central Intelligence Agency issued a top secret report which was later sent in modified form to Godfrey Smith. The essence of the report was direct and chilling: The top electronic minds in the nation were baffled by the Templeton interference and no immediate solution was expected.
The complete CIA report has never been released and it now appears doubtful that it ever will be when one considers the final outcome of the Templeton case.
Letter From Godfrey Smith, General Manager WKOO-TV July 1, 1958.
Federal Communications Commission
At a WKOO-TV stockholders meeting held this morning it was unanimously voted that WKOO-TV request permission from your office to discontinue operations effective August 1, 1958. This request is contingent on the continuance of the interference condition of which the Commission is aware. As a matter of record we herewith citing the facts in support of this request:
1. Strong and uninterrupted co-channel interference on Channel 2 has reduced primary and secondary coverage of WKOO-TV from 35 to 50 miles to approximately four miles. This interference began on May 1, 1958 and all attempts to locate and eliminate the source have failed. The Commission’s engineering staff as well as independent engineering firms have participated in this search without success.
2. WKOO-TV’s receiver penetration has been reduced from approximately 212,000 to less than 30,000. A detailed audit of this survey as well as interference contour maps are attached as exhibits.
3. WKOO-TV has lost 90% of normal advertising revenue as a result of this decreased coverage. Inasmuch as we enjoy no network affiliation, this loss in income cannot be subsidized.
Our attorney, Mr. Benjamin Farley has requested an early hearing with the Commission and we respectfully request the Commission grant this hearing as soon as possible.
Very truly yours,
Godfrey L. Smith
News Item. Intercontinental News Service.
The FCC had earlier suggested that WKOO-TV shift from Channel 2 to Channel 5. Mr. Benjamin Farley, counsel for WKOO-TV rejected this suggestion on the grounds that the financial burden for such a change could not be borne by WKOO-TV at this time. Farley also stated that until the exact source of the interference could be determined, WKOO-TV had no assurance a shift in channels would not also result in a shift in the interfering signal. This inference by Farley that the interference was of a deliberate man-made nature was not challenged by the FCC.
Officials of the FBI and CIA declined to comment on the progress being made on the search for the interference. A reliable government spokesman again discounted the widespread belief that the signal is originating in outer space. The same official admitted however, that no evidence is at hand to refute this theory.
WKOO-TV has offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to detection and elimination of the interference.
Author’s Note: August 1, 1958 was a day of joy for the ham population of Templeton. However the lure of $10,000 was strong and almost every ham and technician within several hundred miles became a searcher. With WKOO-TV off the air the interference could be chased with less confusion by even the most inexperienced…..Channel 2 Yagi antennas sprouting out of cars became a common sight on the streets and countryside of Templeton. The local ham club printed up copies of a simple Channel 2 converter that could be fed into a car radio. Sales of meters for signal strength indicators boomed at the local parts houses. Aside from the search aspect, other interesting developments were recorded. An application was filed for a new FM station. The city’s three movie houses enjoyed a substantial rise in attendance while the Templeton Electric and Gas Company noted a seven percent decrease in kilowatt-hour consumption. TV technicians turned to hi-fi and appliance servicing and grouped together to offer an additional $1000 reward. Several Sunday sermons hinted at intervention by divine providence. Statistics released by the city’s industries cited a four percent decrease in morning tardiness. And, of course, ham activity blasted the bands unmolested night and day as unshielded and unfiltered rigs were dragged out of cellars and attics and fired up.
News Item, Templeton Daily Star August 15, 1958
BULLETIN: TV INTERFERENCE STOPS! WKOO-TV TO RESUME OPERATIONS IMMEDIATELY! Godfrey Smith, General Manager of WKOO-TV confirmed today that his station would resume telecasting within 48 hours as a result of the cessation of the interference which forced the station off the air on August 1. No details could be obtained from Smith concerning the location and elimination of the weird problem but Smith assured reporters that the problem had been taken care of. Local FCC and FBI officials were not immediately available for comment but indications are that full details will not be made public for some time.
Author’s Note: A careful search of all published material relevant to the Templeton case indicates no official statement was ever issued explaining why or how the interference was located and stopped. It is known that the FBI tapped Godfrey Smith’s home telephone, however, and an undisclosed source disclosed that the following message was taped on the night of August 2, 1958:
will stop for five minutes at 9 o’clock tonight. I can eliminate it permanently
but the reward must be increased to $25,000. Send it to Drawer 34, Berne
It is a matter of record that that Smith did turn on his field strength meter at 8:57 P.M. At 9 o’clock the meter reading dropped from 6700 microvolts to zero and remained there for five minutes, after which the signal again came on.
It is also known that Jerome Lindsay Barnes, ex-chief engineer of
WKOO-TV, checked into the Grand Bahama Hotel,
A Study of Gaussian Abstractions Leading to a Non-Detectable v.h.f. Radiation System. By J. L. Barnes, MIT Radiation Labs, June 1942.
Single Copy – Do Not Remove From Files
Beneath the title was a short hand-written note in faded blue ink,
“Impractical ---- Godfrey Smith, Assistant Secretary of War for Advanced Projects.”