"Ah, ah ah...Don't touch that remote. I know it's heartbreaking to have your favorite shows preempted, but look what you're getting instead: Me! And a whole truckload of mindless violence and wanton property damage — everything that makes TV great! So stay tuned - you won't believe your eyes..."
So you're a Diabolical Mastermind. You have your secret base, your evil orbitalDeath Ray, your right-hand man, your henchmen, and you're poised to Take Over the World. But how do you let the World know that you're ready? A few emails to the world leaders? A letter to the tabloid press? Postcards? Well, why bother going to all that trouble when you could simply take over every television channel and network in the world?
Yes, no matter what sort of evil scheme he has planned, or how well funded his operation is, since Everything Is Online, any Evil Genius worth his salt can just flick a switch, and his image will instantly be transmitted to every TV set in the world, so that he can tell everybody about how all their base are belong to him. No explanation is ever given for how he does this, it's just assumed to be something that every supervillain can do automatically. The device is probably given to them for free upon graduation from Evil Academy (along with a pool of sharks).
This completeness of his takeover of the airwaves will almost certainly be shown on screen with a shot of an electrical store with a bank of TVs in its window, all showing different channels, but then all of them winking out one by one to be replaced by the villain's smug face. A shot of the large screen overlooking Times Square in New York City is also common.
Alternatively, it could be demonstrated with a montage of different people around the world watching different channels, which are then replaced by the evil transmission. If played for laughs, most people will probably ignore the message itself and bang the top of the TV set, hoping to get their programmes back. Of course, this won't work. More blatant examples may attempt a rapid change of channel, only to constantly reveal the same picture. The astonished phrase "He's On Every Station!" will likely be uttered at this point while technicians at the TV stations are shown completely baffled at how the villain has managed to hijack the broadcast. The villain's first act of mildly-annoying evil is complete. Now it's time to tell the world what else he has planned.
The actual speech usually comes in one of three flavours:
It could be a simple announcement that the villain is their new leader, and that everyone will obey him. If this is the case, then the actual plan itself will be very quick and easy, and will usually begin as soon as the transmission has put across the vital information (he wouldn't want to spoil the surprise by putting it into operation before people have been suitably shocked by his announcement) and will be complete by the time the transmission ends. The transition will be seamless, and the villain now rules the world. It will then be up to the Heroes to wrest power back from him.
It could be an Ultimatum — the villain has a superweapon poised to devastate the Earth (or at least its major cities). He wants something. Maybe he doesn't have a plan to actually take over the world, and is threatening to destroy it unless it is handed to him on a plate. Maybe he wants money (although if this is the case he will usually just transmit directly to the UN). Maybe he wants a piece of technology that somebody else has. Maybe he just wants the Hero's head brought to him. Whatever he wants, he is willing to destroy Civilization unless he gets it, or unless the Heroes can stop him.
He might just be giving a friendly warning — he's going to destroy the world in 12 hours. In this case, he's simply insane. He doesn't want anything; he's just destroying the world on a whim, and wants you all to know it so he can enjoy laughing at your terror. If this is the case, he will literally do it — once he mentions the term "destroy the world", everybody watching (apart from the Heroes, of course) will begin screaming, and we will be treated to a montage of various rooms with screaming people running around, and the TV set with just the villain laughing on it in the background. Fortunately, his desire to witness the world's panic gives the Heroes plenty of time to foil his evil plans.
For extra spice, comedic versions (especially in animated shows) will have the broadcast fall victim to any number of production errors and accidents, for example faulty cue-cards, fluffed lines, readings from a grocery list or microphone failures.
Really nasty villains may combine this with a Brown Note.
In more recent examples, the message may be played on computer and cell phone screens as well. It is unclear how this works for dial-up users.
Occasionally, this trope can also apply to situations where the transmitter is simply knocked out of commission.
See also News Monopoly, Huge Holographic Head, Murder.com and We Interrupt This Program.
Disambiguation note: The phrase "Do Not Adjust Your Set" is derived from an on-screen breakdown caption. It was later used as the title of a pre-Monty Python's Flying Circus show starring Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, David Jason and The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, among others.
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The current crop of ads for Hulu, a video-on-demand service, features celebrities' cheerful claims that they are aliens, and are using Do Not Adjust Your Set methods to render human brains both inert and palatable.
It also happens in the season 1 movie, Our War Games. The movie's titular villain is trying to destroy the world by screwing with every piece of technology imaginable. Whilst this is happening, every computer in the world recieves a broadcast of his hacking fest and the main character's attempts to fight him.
In the Read or DieOVA, once the I-Jin underwater fortress surfaces, their leader hijacks all available transmissions to give the world a long speech on just how doomed they are, right before he reveals The Mole.
In Dragon Ball Z, Cell takes over the main (and apparently only) TV station to announce the Cell Games.
Done earlier in Dragon Ball by Piccolo Sr. to inform the world that he's the new king now (oh, and he's gonna annihilate one country per year. Just for laughs), although he apparently uses the (former) king's equipment for this.
Babidi on the other hand uses world wide telepathy to demand the handing over of the heroes. Just as efficient, plus the additional trick of communicating with and/or killing off your viewers on the spot.
Mazinger Z villains did this as soon as the SECOND episode, when Baron Ashura announced the world belonged to Dr. Hell henceforth and all who opposed to him (i. e.: Mazinger-Z and the Photonic Research Institute) would be destroyed. Since then it was often employed by Dr. Hell and Baron Ashura to threaten, make demands, blackmail the Japanese Government, spreading lies and misinformation about the heroes and -successfully- scare people away in making their biding. In Great Mazinger, Great Marshall Of Hell was the only Mykene commander broadcast his demands by TV, showing Dr. Hell did not lose that custom even after dying and being brought back to life. On the other hand, UFO Robo Grendizer villains barely did it.
Eggman also does this regularly in the same show outside of that arc. Apparently his grandfather's talents rubbed off...
Death Note has a (somewhat) heroic use of this when L takes over the airwaves of Japan's Kanto region (but pretends to be doing a worldwide broadcast) and broadcasts his challenge to Kira. The Japanese national police, however, are responsible for actually taking over the airwaves.
Near uses this as well in the one-shot comic set three years later. He mocks the new Kira and tells him that he is a disgrace to the original one, and said Kira kills himself.
Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann has two. The first one has the Beastmen broadcasting a message to all the underground villages warning the Humans about their imminent destruction...only problem is, they left the cameras running while Simon massively kicked their asses. Later, the Anti-Spirals represented by post-Time Skip Nia take over the airwaves and announce their plans for Absolute Extermination.
In a rare protagonist version, the Order of The Black Knights from Code Geass has Diethard Reid, someone you may want to call a "media hacker". In one episode of the second season, he singlehandedly hacks into the broadcasting system of the Chinese Federation, which spans all the way from China to Pakistan, South East Asia included, and successfully relays an Engineered Public Confession from the antagonist-of-the-week. He has been doing this for so long under the Order that he is practically the chief of propaganda for the Order.
And while this is one of Zero's favorite tools to freak out the Britannian populace and gain public support with bold gestures, it's rather ironic that a recent episode had none other than the Emperor himself pull this on Zero's broadcast, to point out that Zero's essentially just sent the entire world into war by forming the United Federation of Nations, and to accept his implied challenge, as well as deliver a rousing "All Hail Britannia!" that sets off a Crowning Moment Of Awesome as we're shown a back-and-forth screen cut of the Britannian army in Japan chanting "ALL HAIL BRITANNIA! ALL HAIL BRITANNIA! ALL HAIL BRITANNIA!" and the Black Knights on Horai Island chanting "LONG LIVE JAPAN! LONG LIVE JAPAN! LONG LIVE JAPAN!"
Quinze and White Fang did this three times, the latter two with Zechs, when he declared war on Earth and when he fired Libra's main cannon at a remote place on Earth.
Lady Une and Lucrezia Noin broadcasted Heero and Zechs's final duel to all TV sets on Earth and in space to show people that War Is Hell.
In Endless Waltz, Relena Darlian did this, encouraging the Earth citizens to stand up to the Mariemaia Army, as did Mariemaia Khushrenada earlier, when she declared war on the Earth Sphere Unified Nation.
Durandal also did it, but he apologizes for doing so.
In Sailor Moon, Galaxia does something like this to tell people of the Earth that they all are going to die, right before the Senshi have their final battle against her. This may also be because of the fact that her base is at a TV station and her minions use the disguise of working for "Ginga TV" when they're searching for Star Seeds.
In Lupin III: Dead or Alive, General Headhunter first sees Pannish when he takes over the national broadcast to announce to the country that he has returned, and that Headhunter had falsely taken control of the kingdom.
The Joker loves this trope. For all his most grandiose crimes, he loves to have an audience to strike fear into. In the days before widespread televisions, he used radio broadcasts, but even those got changed to TVs in reimaginings. In fact, he does this shtick in his very first story in the comics where he took control of a radio broadcast to deliver his death threats, which makes this Older Than They Think.
The retelling of the Joker and Batman's first meeting (The Man Who Laughs) has him using his Joker Venom on a reporter live on the air, give his "Hello, goodbye, you're all going to die" speech, then execute either a really patient camera man or else a camera on a tripod.
After all, the Joker has always been a performer! And he is something of an Attention Whore.
Death Of The Family has Joker take over the news again, issue a threat to the mayor and execute a child, in a deliberate homage to the above examples (even ending with "the Joker has spoken", as he did in his first appearance.)
Subversion: in V for Vendetta, it is explicitly shown how V infiltrates the BTN studios to broadcast his pre-recorded speech throughout Britain via the national emergency broadcast system. It's somewhat unusual to see a protagonist resort to this, too — but then, even the film version of V is a very unusual protagonist.
In Ultimate Marvel, the Ultimate Galactus storyline begins with something taking over every TV screen, computer monitor, cell phone display, radio, and so on (along with some degree of psionic broadcast) in the world to display incredibly disturbing images. As a result, thousands of people commit suicide. Both the Ultimates and the X-Men track the unknown source to the Tunguska impact site. Turns out it's the damaged Vision, sent ahead to warn everyone of the coming of Gah Lak Tus, doing so in the most unfortunate way possible. The Vision doesn't know the effect her transmissions are having. Incidentally, the X-Men are, for some reason, completely unaware of anything other than the psychic effects, and conclude that it's a very disturbed, very powerful mutant awakening uncontrollably, resulting in a mild Idiot Plot. This is bitterly lampshaded by Wolverine.
Marvel's Kang The Conqueror did this, broadcasting his speech on every TV, radio, and Internet-capable computer in the world ("in the local majority language") to let Earth know he was going to conquer it, so get ready and give him a good fight. The kicker? Kang won anyway. Acceptable, as he does have 40th century tech.
Played interestingly in an issue of Wonder Woman. The villainess Circe used some Post-Modern Magik to televise Diana's fight with Medusa worldwide, hoping that the gorgon would look at the camera at some point and turn the millions of viewers into stone.
Dr. Wily does this in the first issue of Mega Man, demanding that every world leader surrender to him.
Occurs in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (IDW), though on a much smaller scale. Queen Chrysalis hijacks Spike's fire-mail line to Princess Celestia to deliver a crystal ball to the Mane 6, which serves as a two-way video conference and a map.
The Joker in the first Batman film shoots a fireplace-broadcast-esque calling out to Batman, and gets the city to forget that he went on a murder spree by paying them.
In The Dark Knight, he constantly finds ways to get on the air, mostly by videotaping his tortures of his victims and sending them into the news.
Live Free or Die Hard, in which all the TV stations are taken over and made to play the villains' doomsday message, composed of clips taken from various President speeches that have been spliced together.
In Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen, The Fallen broadcasts an ultimatum over the whole world to hand over Sam Witwicky by having Megatron grab onto the antenna on top of the Empire State Building. Never mind that The Fallen was on a sinking aircraft carrier at the time. Justified via Soundwave, who hacked a satellite (and stayed there) for the entire movie.
Subverted in Serenity, where, as in the V for Vendetta example, it's the heroes who use this method to broadcast their evidence that the government is directly responsible for the annihilation of Miranda and the creation of the Reavers. After the government hacked many/all TV sets to show subliminal messages to River.
Used at the climax of Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, in which Chuck De Nomolos not only announced his evil scheme live on air, but then attempted to carry it out in front of the cameras. Of course, the heroes beat him, and then used his takeover of the global media to perform a totally excellent concert for the whole planet.
"People of Earth, attention. This is a voice speaking to you from thousands of miles beyond your planet. Look to your sun for a warning."
Dreyfuss in The Pink Panther Strikes Again hijacks every TV signal in order to announce his death warrant for Closeau. Problem: Nobody knows what he's talking about and are more concerned that he interrupted the big football game.
In Used Cars, the operator of a used car lot has two guys tap into the broadcast signal of President Carter, and substitute a commercial for their lot, using the cars of their competitor across the street for target practice
Bison does this when Guile taunts him on live TV at the beginning of Street Fighter.
Our Man Flint. The leaders of Galaxy broadcast a warning to the nations of the world: destroy your nuclear weapons, navy and air forces or face geological and meteorological annihilation.
The movie Hackers has a heroic version of this where the one hacker that didn't get arrested has other hackers get him on TV where he exposes the real scheme of the villains to clear his friends from being framed.
The Mandarin in Iron Man 3 does this several times in order to broadcast his threats to the president. Except it's actually Aldritch Killian who's responsible for this, as the Mandarin is in fact merely an actor.
In Man of Steel, General Zod broadcasts on every screen device in the whole world and in every language a message saying the Kryptonians have arrived, and that Superman must surrender himself or watch the world suffer the consequences.
The Haters in the Apocalypse film series are able to hack into the One Nation Earth television network feed with messages from televangelists such as T.D. Jakes and Jack Van Impe warning the people about the end times and pleading with the undecided to come to Christ.
The Vogon Constructor Fleet in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy does the third variation to every TV, radio, and speaker on Earth; in the book, it's explained that it's not just these, but any piece of metal that can pick up the frequency. Of course, in this instance there are no heroes. The destruction of Earth goes as planned, a few minutes later.
Galactic Milieu: In Julian May's novel Magnificat, as something of a subversion, the opening moves of the Metapsychic Rebellion are broadcast to the entire Galactic Milieu — not due to efforts on the behalf of the antagonist; everyone knows that this is going to be a galaxy-changing event, and tunes in with popcorn. Most operant psychics tune in telepathically. Therefore, everyone gets to witness the main antagonist murder two billion innocent sentient beings by destroying the core of their planet with a carefully controlled psychic assault.
The televisor went blank as an untuned wave of incredible power crowded onto it. Then the image of a man appeared.
"What the devil?" Sparks gasped.
The man on the screen was an extraordinary-looking individual. He seemed an Earthman, yet his tall, gaunt, black-clothed figure, his enormous bulging forehead and skull, and his hypnotically burning black eyes, gave to his aspect some indefinable but startling aura of the superman.
"Doctor Zorro calling the Solar System peoples," he rasped in a deep, harsh voice. "People of the nine worlds, I bring you warning of a dreadful peril!"
Happens for weird, but non-evil purposes in the sci-fi comedy novel Buddy Holly Is Alive and Well on Ganymede by Bradley Denton. Published in 1989, the story begins when protagonist Oliver Vale (the Unfazed Everyman) sees every TV station on Earth pre-empted for a transmission from Saturn's moon, featuring the long-thought-dead rock icon. Buddy then reads Oliver's name to the angry population of Earth, which causes him to be hunted by spies, robots, aliens and couch potatoes who blame him for the loss of their soaps.
A short story titled, "And Now, A Word From Our Sponsor" (possibly by Robert Bloch) had a never-identified entity take over every radio or TV in the world to speak one command: "Fight." Humans being contrary by nature, many impending brawls, battles, and what could've become World War III were promptly resolved peacefully. A question remained: was the speaker, whoever he was, practicing Reverse Psychology?
In the Transformers: Shattered Glass prose story "Eye in the Sky", Rodimus has Blaster hack into every single television, radio, internet, cell phone, etc. frequency on Earth to broadcast his demands that the world appoint he and his Autobots as their new leaders, or he'll use the Kill Sat he just hijacked to start toasting things.
In The Mysterious Benedict Society, Mr. Curtain's messages are broadcast on every television signal, every radio signal, every wireless signal in every language. Most people don't notice them, though, because they broadcast using childrens' thoughts so that they may hide insidiously in people's minds.
In the Left Behind books, Chang Wong is able to have direct access to the Global Community television network feed so that he can interrupt its programming with messages from Dr. Tsion Ben-Judah (and later Chaim Rosenzweig) that are Biblical warnings and pleas for the undecided to come to Christ. This leads to a series of deaths among the Global Community's top brass when they fail utterly to get Tsion and Chaim off the air.
A supernatural version occurs in Desecration when one of God's angels takes over the airwaves to recite Revelation 14:9-13 to those who have taken the Mark of the Beast and worshiped Carpathia's image.
In the miniseries V, it is "explained" that all the world's broadcasting networks have been handed over to the alien Visitors. In the sequel miniseries, it is shown that a single (albeit large) microchip aboard the alien spaceship controls all TV signals.
The opening credits of The Outer Limits set this up, but it has nothing to do with the actual plots.
A rare heroic version happens regularly in Dark Angel where Eyes Only takes over everyone's set to deliver a message on whatever he feels people should know about then. Somewhat more realistic in that he does have a lot of equipment to allow him to do this, and if he stays on for longer than 30 seconds the broadcast can be tracked back to him.
Do not adjust your set. This is an Eyes Only streaming freedom video bulletin. It cannot be Traced. It cannot be stopped. And it is the only free voice left in this city...
The revived series of Doctor Who had something similar in the series 2 episode "The Idiot's Lantern" which featured an energy-based alien consciousness that inhabited televisions in 1953 London. Apparently, it was a single being calling itself "The Wire" and could exist in multiple television sets. It also fed off of human brain energy and sucked off the faces of its victims.
The Master in the serial Logopolis does this for the entire universe.
The Atraxi in "The Eleventh Hour" are not exactly evil—more incredibly callous—and broadcast on every communications device "Prisoner Zero will vacate the human residence, or the human residence will be incinerated" ad infinitum. (At first, the Doctor and Amy think "human residence" just means her house, but once he realizes it's on every communications device, he promptly figures out what they really mean.)
And the Doctor and his crew do this again to foil The Silents' subliminal control over Earth. They use a 21st century smartphone to hack into the broadcast of the Moon Landing and replace it with a subliminal message to attack and kill all Silents on sight. In this case, though, it's less that they take over every channel as that they take over the one channel that everyone will be watching.
In The Sarah Jane Adventures episode "Secrets of the Stars", Martin Trueman manages to get his show displayed on television throughout the world.
In the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Demons", the leader of a radical, xenophobic group called Terra Prime broadcasts a warning "on every frequency" to all the aliens living on Earth. The message even shows up conveniently on a large TV in an alien conference on Earth. And in "Exile" when Hoshi Sato was contacted by a telepathic alien, all the computer screens around her showed images of her own face. Hoshi was, needless to say, somewhat creeped out.
Happens again in Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon. Mio announces she's taking over as Queen of the World in this manner during the Special Act. (which takes place after the main series)
An unusual use in Angel, where Jasmine cannot in fact simply take control of all airwaves, but can use her Mass Hypnosis to convince enough people that she should be on every channel that it'll happen. Also, doing this is the culmination rather than the start of her plan, because anyone who sees the broadcast will fall under her control.
In Season 4 of 24, when terrorists kidnapped Secretary of Defense Heller, they hacked the Internet so that they could broadcast his execution live to every computer with Internet access in the world.
S 2 E 4 of Moonlighting begins with an introduction by Orson Welles informing the viewer that, during the broadcast of the episode, the screen would chage to black and white, but not to be alarmed because "nothing is wrong with your set."
A downplayed version appears in True Blood when Big Bad Russel Edgington sends a national broadcast of his "The Reason You Suck" Speech using a nationally-broadcast news programme, by rushing into the set while live, killing the anchorman and intimidating the crew to let the camera roll while he delivers his rant.
An episode of My Favorite Martian has Martin with a defective part of his cranium causing him to broadcast everything he sees and hears simultaneously over every television station in the United States.
When the Nickelodeon Studios complex at Universal Studios Florida in 1990; they celebrated with a three-hour special, which was periodically interrupted by A.W.F.F.U.L. the Adults Who Find Fun Unbearably Loathesome who planned to prevent the studios from opening.
Sherlock series three ends with every television screen in the UK showing Moriarty, two in-universe years after he shot himself in the head.
On the vintage anthology show Tales Of Tomorrow, a scifi program is interrupted repeatedly by views of someone's kitchen in which a murder is being planned. The images' source isn't ever fully explained, but in between these foreboding glimpses, the TV studio's personnel are seen debating where the rogue "broadcast" might be coming from, arguing about how they might prevent the crime, and frantically trying to identify and warn the intended victim.
Done in the opener to Lordi's album "The Arockalypse", in which a demon/monster takes over the TV broadcast to announce the coming of...well, the Arockalypse. Cue music.
Radio example: The Monstars' anthem from the Space Jam soundtrack opens with the line "Greetings, earthlings. We have now taken over your radio".
Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons. Actually, go ahead — the Mysterons'll take over your set anyway. It's directly stated in the first episode that they are broadcasting on all Earth radios. Averted in the CGI reboot, probably to address the Fridge Logic issue of how the Mysterons got anything accomplished when their "war of nerves" was common knowledge.
In Pokémon Live!, the show begins with Giovanni's broadcast interrupting a song. In-universe, it's a commercial for the Diamond Badge.
Dr. Eggman does the second variation in Sonic Adventure 2, declaring that he will destroy the world unless its leaders give it to him. Amusingly, he simultaneously takes over movie marquees during the broadcast to display messages like "Eggman is brilliant, Eggman is handsome" etc. Then a tape of his late grandfather Gerald Robotnik of the third variation plays in the Last Story, as the ARK falls to Earth.
Also, at the end of Shadow the Hedgehog, another taped message by Gerald is broadcast; this one is of an inspirational rather than evil type (being recorded before his mental breakdown), however. This transcends even human technology; flat holographic screens broadcasting the message appear inside the extraworldly Black Comet.
In Beyond Good & Evil, the protagonist and her group are rebel journalists, and have been spreading the truth about the Orwellian military Alpha Section for some time. Alpha Section broadcasts looping propaganda messages on screens all over the game world. In the climax, the protagonist seizes control of the propaganda broadcast tower on the planet's moon to send a final call for aid to the citizenry. Cleverly, the broadcast includes a montage of photos the player took as earlier mission goals, illustrating the Alpha Section's various crimes against humanity.
In Evil Genius, the player, as the titular Evil Genius, must do this near the end of the game. The UN laughs off your ultimatum, so you are forced to deploy your doomsday weapon.
In Galactix, the Xidus interrupt all television broadcasts to basically say "We're gonna invade you, there's nothing you can do, ha ha ha".
In Wild ARMs 2, Vinsfeld transmits his new world order message not only to TV screens, but to windows, mirrors, and even a pool of water, all through the power of radio waves. This tactic ends up backfiring spectacularly: the leader of ARMS uses the fear generated by this announcement to unite the nations of the world against Vinsfeld. Which is exactly what Vinsfeld and Irving wanted. Disc one was a Xanatos Gambit in which either the world was forcibly united under Vinsfeld, or peacefully united under Irving to fight Vinsfeld, either of which would create a united world ready to face the real threat in disc two.
Pokémon Gold and Silver have Team Rocket take over the Goldenrod Radio Tower. Before you defeat them, every available channel on your Pokegear's Radio feature will feature them announcing their takeover and calling out to Giovanni, their former leader.
Pokemon Xand Y has Team Flare take over the Holo-casters to announce their planned apocalypse.
In Mega Man 10, Dr. Wily does this, demanding that anyone who wants the cure to the robotic disease, roboenza, accept him as their leader.
In Final Fantasy VIII, there is worldwide signal interference that started approximately 17 years before when the events of the game began, blocking out all television and radio signals. It is actually caused by the Sorceress Adel, who was sealed in space at that time. When you visit the TV station in Timber on Disc 1, if you examine the giant television screen carefully, you can read three messages being broadcast by Adel - "IAMALIVE (I am alive.)," "IWILLNEVERLETYOUFORGETABOUTME (I will never let you forget about me.)" and "BRINGMEBACKTHERE (Bring me back there.)"
Subverted by Narbonic. "Was he trying to take over the Cooking Channel?"
In Evil Plan, Kinesis takes it a step further: he hacks into all television network and web browsers to deliver his ultimatum to Amazingman.
In Survival of the Fittest the game is being broadcast by the terrorists on live television by way of hijacking. The first time it happened, the government tried to cover it up by saying it was a reality TV show with an unusual theme. Then it happened again...
Subverted in Frisky Dingo; the program opens with the title theme of Sealab 2021, another 70/30 production, which is then interrupted by Killface as he explains his evil plan to launch the planet Earth into the Sun. Once he's finished, it turns out that he's actually only rehearsing his speech, and that he hasn't yet raised enough money to interrupt the worldwide TV signals. Killface's inability to afford this (as his USC Film school grad abductees note, it would cost about 20 billion dollars) puts much of the first season's plot into motion. He ends up settling on...grammatically incorrect postcards to get his message across.
Killface's former Dragon Synn manages to do it for a fraction of the cost (zero dollars, it would seem) in the second season opener.
On Teen Titans, in the Trapped in TV Land episode "Episode 257-494" (AKA "Don't Touch that Dial", appropriately enough), Control Freak does this at the beginning of the episode. It turns out this is part of his scheme, though: he's modified the signal to send waves through people's television sets that turn them into mindless zombies, so that while they're watching him battle the Teen Titans, the TV is literally rotting their brains.
He did this again in "For Real", It's not just to frighten the masses, but also to keep an eye on the Titans East who are "participating" in his "Ultimate Titans Challenge". The civilians all cheer on the Titans East through the entire thing.
Also, the episode "Revolution", where Mad Mod performs a massive brainwashing to make people think the USA were never segregated from the British Empire. Along with changing the scenery.
In the Pinky and the Brain episode "Brain's Song", Brain uses this...twice. First, he somehow manages to broadcast a tearjerker (broadcasting live no less) in order to make everyone in the world chronically depressed so he can take it over. And it works. (Apparently, no one turns off their TV when their favorite show is interrupted.) Unfortunately for Brain, when he takes over the airwaves again to announce his leadership of the world, he appears so funny that he inadvertently cures the world's depression. (And creates a new Catch Phrase: I am the O-o-o-overlord!!!!)
Used often in G.I. Joe, most notably in the episode "The Wrong Stuff", where Cobra took over every communications satellite and replaced all TV programming with the propagandistic Cobra Network Television. Also subverted multiple times such as the first story where Destro is complaining that Cobra Commander is overdoing it alone with too many public firings of their ultimate weapon and thus depleting its fuel. Another time is when Cobra goes bankrupt and Cobra Commander makes yet another threatening broadcast, only to have GI Joe quickly trace the signal, raid the studio and expose it as a pathetically fake show of strength.
Cobra Commander does this rather more effectively in the final episodes of Sigma Six.
He also did it again in G.I. Joe: Resolute. In his message, he demanded UN to surrender their countries to him. To prove the point that he's serious, he nukes Moscow.
In Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad, Kilokhan takes over the airwaves to challenge Servo to battle. Servo didn't go for it, so he had to finally shut down all television broadcasts to get Servo to come into Cyberspace and fight.
In The Simpsons, Mr. Burns uses this trope when trying to retrieve his teddy bear (don't ask) from Homer Simpson.
Though rather than taking over everyone's TV, he was just running from studio to studio as Homer changed channels.
Sideshow Bob did the same thing, ironically to threaten Springfield with a nuclear bomb unless they got rid of television.
Sideshow Bob: By the way, I realize the irony of appearing on television in order to decry it, so don't bother pointing that out.
An unusually reasonable version occurred with the Joker in the Justice League episode quoted at the top. We are introduced from the start to how he gained control of the channel — he bought air time on several channels under an alias, and the ensuing carnage makes all the major news channels pick it up too since he's already got all the best footage. Not only that, but the Joker using the television broadcast wasn't just a passing schtick (drama for the sake of drama), but actually part of a greater plan having a creepy meta-human girl with literal mindscrew powers make anyone who watches the "Must See TV" into a drooling, incoherent nutcase. The last half of the second episode is downright disturbing. Which I guess for the Joker is his schtick.
Another Joker example happens in "A Christmas with the Joker" from Batman: The Animated Series. It only seemed to affect Gotham, but it still allows the Joker to publicly mock Batman, threaten the death of the Gordon family and threaten Gotham with a laser. OK, so people couldn't watch It's a Wonderful Life, but are you expecting flawless villainy for an insane criminal?
Yet another example happens in the episode "Almost Got 'Im". Joker had taken over a late night comedy show, then captured Batman and placed him in an elaborate death trap that would electrocute him more the more people laughed. Then he gassed the studio audience with laughing gas.
In the episode "The Laughing Fish", the Joker stages an advert for his brand of "Joker fish", ending with him threatening the life of the patent clerk who informed him that his plan of taking out a patent didn't work like the Joker thought. It also included a failed channel hop scene. Given the evidence, we can only conclude that the Joker has some sort of arrangement with the media producers to let this sort of thing happen in order to boost their ratings.
In the comics, the Joker once took over a game show. He quizzes the contestant with extremely hard questions on "Advanced Theoretical Calculus", "Cuisine of Medieval Indochina" and "Reproductive Habits of Freshwater Mollusks". When the contestant gets the first question wrong he sprays a liquid in her face...which turns out to be ginger ale. It turned out that the Joker had placed a hidden camera in the producer's room to get footage of him saying how great this would be for ratings and to film him getting a phone call from his superiors saying not to cut the power. The Joker then escapes,and, in his own words, "That was the most fun I've ever had...WITHOUT KILLING ANYONE. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
He did a couple of times in The Batman. Specifically, JTV.
In the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Two-Face," Two-Face uses the phrase to announce his underworld debut, but he gets the quote wrong: "Don't bother adjusting the picture. For the next five minutes, I'M in control!"
Both Frugal Lucre and Adrena Lynn tried it in Kim Possible. It was at least thematically appropriate for TV star Adrena Lynn; presumably Lucre used his established computer skills.
Demona from Gargoyles does this to cast a spell over the airwaves.
The Fairly Oddparents: Channel Chasers was about trying to prevent Vicky from this trope. Bizarrely, at the end, Timmy's parents are the ones to broadcast on every station, but for good, making this a double-Trope-subversion.
Carmen Sandiego once stole all the Broadcast towers in the world in order to show off her latest thefts.
The show displays some especially preposterous examples of this, including the Riddler abruptly appearing on the Justice League computer and communicating them via live feed (this happens more than once). Of course, that comes from an episode that describes the center of a black hole as similar to the calm center of a hurricane and that shows Lex Luthor watching three Superfriends fixing a satellite on a computer screen; Willing Suspension of Disbelief is all the way out the window before it even GETS to that point in the episode.
1973/74 episode "The Androids". While the Super Friends are talking to Colonel Wilcox on a viewscreen, the villain Dr. Rebos breaks into the transmission and warns that he plans to sabotage the launch of the Mars rocket.
A more realistic example: In the episode of Hey Arnold! where Harold gets suspended, he tries to watch cartoons, but every channel is interrupted with a press conference in Kyoto.
In the Phineas and Ferb episode "The Secret of Success", Dr. Doofenshmirtz builds a "Preempt-inator" designed to broadcast his "Telethon of Evil" on all channels across the Tri-State Area.
In the Donkey Kong Country episode "Bluster's Sales Ape-Stravangaza", Klump's offhand comment on how Krusha's favorite TV show, Sing-A-Long With Uncle Swampy gets millions of viewers prompts King K.Rool to launch his next scheme to steal the Crystal Coconut on live TV. Even when Cranky's Cabin is empty, K.Rool refuses to just walk in and take it, insisting to dramatically use the 'secret weapon' as he's "Not a common cat burglar, but a grand dictator!"
Hijacking airwaves is Dr. Wily's preferred method of communication. It's like he's never heard of a telephone.
The Legend of Korra: On two occasions so far, Amon has proven capable of hijacking the radio airwaves to spread his propaganda and ultimatums.
Fridge Brilliance and Fridge Horror kick in when you think about it; Amon is very charismatic and intelligent, so it's likely that some of the radio staff are on his payroll.
Played with in "WordGirl". Dr. Two-Brains suddenly interrupts Becky "WordGirl" Botsford's favorite television show:
Dr. Two-Brains: "Hello, WordGirl! ...And I guess anyone else watching this."
Ed from Ed, Edd n Eddy does this twice, once actually saying "Do not adjust your set" (Though he was talking to Eddy, who was asking where Edd was, and whom Ed went to retrieve) and the second time actuallt turning to the audience and saying "Don't touch that dial, kids!"
The Bakshi Mighty Mouse cartoon "Don't Touch That Dial," probably CBS's finest ten minutes. The hero is constantly transposed into other cartoon shows at the whim of a diaper-clad toddler. Having enough, Mighty Mouse breaks through the screen, smashes the remote control and delivers a verbal moral smackdown.
In 1977, a prankster hijacked the audio (but not the video) of ITV Southern Television in the UK, claiming to be an alien called Vrillon of the Ashtar Galactic Command broadcasting a message to Earth in which he called for world peace. The full transcipt can be found here
In September 1985, four Polish astronomers working at the University of Torun used a personal computer and privately-owned transmitter to interrupt the Soviet-run television broadcasting with their own messages to promote anti-Communist Solidarność all over the city of Torun. They were soon caught and arrested, but due to their prior contributions to the scientific community, they got away with a fine and probation.
On April 27, 1986, HBO's satellite transmission was interrupted by a message from "Captain Midnight", a satellite TV dealer in Florida. The interruption was carried out as a protest against anti-competitive practices of cable TV companies towards satellite viewers.
Free Obligatory Political Program in election years, in Brazil; all public TV stations have the exact same program. The difference it's that's not only one villain, but thousands of them; and all of them trying to pull the best lie to gain your vote. Our luck is that vote is obligatory, but we can still null it.
In Venezuela and Argentina there are Cadenas where the government can interrupt all the TV channels and radio stations at will. This was made for emergency reasons but has been abused for propaganda by all the governments, to say the least. At the time of writing cadena. What's the emergency? The president is graduating college students.
The BBC can do something similar for anything particularly newsworthy, but these days they prefer a simple caption telling viewers to switch to BBC News 24 for a special bulletin unless it's something truly dire.
Notably averted during the 2006 autumn protests in Hungary, when extremists attempted to take over the state television. Even after the extremists took control of the TV building's lower floors, stealing or burning everything they found, the channel still continued broadcasting its normal evening news programme, obviously with coverage of the ongoing attacks on the TV station.
The Emergency Alert System in the US. According to That Other Wiki, "in addition to alerting the public of local weather emergencies such as tornadoes and flash floods, the official EAS is designed to enable the President of the United States to speak to the United States within 10 minutes".
The UK had a somewhat less comprehensive system. In the event of a nuclear attack, all TV channels would broadcast the frequency everyone needed to tune their radios to (that of BBC Radio 4) and then go off the air. So rather than taking over all channels, they would simply turn most of them off. Since the end of the Cold War, the system no longer exists at all.