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Fox produced 45 minutes of “real news” for Independence Day

Some of the clips originated from actual TV channels, including London-based Sky News and Fox-owned Los Angeles station KTTV.

Some of the clips originated from actual TV channels, including London-based Sky News and Fox-owned Los Angeles station KTTV.

A still frame from a news broadcast commissioned for the Fox film "Independence Day." (Still frame courtesy Walt Disney Company)
A still frame from a news broadcast commissioned for the Fox film “Independence Day.” (Still frame courtesy Walt Disney Company)

Nearly three decades ago, the summer blockbuster “Independence Day” smashed box office records and set the stage for the modern disaster film genre.

The movie chronicles an alien invasion that was, perhaps coincidentally, timed around July 4, along with the world’s response to it led by the American government (naturally, because this is a Hollywood movie).

The film turned its actors and production crew into international superstars, with global audiences marvelling at the movie’s use of computer technology to produce special effects that allowed film-makers to destroy major cities around the world, including New York, Los Angeles, Moscow and Berlin, in the blink of an eye.

Less known is that the producers of the movie cared enough about the film’s attention to detail that they commissioned nearly an hour of “news footage” to run on television screens in the background of various scenes throughout the movie.

The footage — which runs about 45 minutes when edited together — starts with a fake news broadcast from a channel called “Team One News,” whose news team — Robin Waas and Jim O’Banion — are named after various technical crew who worked on the movie.

Waas and O’Banion begin their news broadcast by noting various reception issues reported in their local area. Neither are able to explain the source of the problem, but O’Banion affirms that “our station’s management want you to know that we are doing everything in our power to work around this disturbance.”

“If this keeps up, we’ll have the cable companies give a rebate,” Waas speculates.

“Well, don’t hold your breath on that one,” O’Banion quips.

Things become more apparent once the alien invasion of Earth starts, with the next clip originating from Sky News, an actual channel based in London (which, at the time, shared common ownership with 20th Century Fox), where George Putnam offers a short recap of events before tossing to a news feed from a Russian TV station. Putnam really was a news broadcaster, appearing for years on Los Angeles television stations, including Fox-owned KTTV (Channel 11) — which explains his lack of British accent during any of the Sky News clips “broadcast” during Independence Day. (The feed from Moscow contains a minor goof: It supposedly originates from a channel called “Soviet Central News,” which almost certainly would not have existed if the film took place in 1996. The Soviet Union collapsed five years earlier.)

The vast collection of news footage includes “reports” from a number of other actual TV stations and brands, including KTTV (which portrays itself as “KATN”), Germany’s Vox TV and even “Entertainment Tonight” and “Hard Copy.” They not only serve as a great example of the studio and production crew’s desire to give the movie a “real-world sense,” but also as a pseudo-time capsule in what real-time reporting would have looked like in the mid-1990s.

One clip offered an interesting prediction on the direction of television news during large-scale events: A segment featuring self-proclaimed “UFO experts” Hartmut Engel and Dr. Libby Fields (played by character actors Vincent Shiavelli and Kurt Fuller) starts with each man offering their perspective on the invasion that are largely rooted in personal beliefs and unsubstantiated “facts” before the conversation disintegrates into name-calling and bickering. (Sound familiar?)

Watch the full assortment of news clips from the movie below:


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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).