It turns out the ITV documentary Exposure - Gaddafi and the IRA, which aired on Monday night aired some footage of an alleged IRA attack on a helicopter. The documentary states "With Gaddafi's heavy machine guns, it was possible to shoot down a helicopter as the terrorist's own footage from 1988 shows... No one died in this attack but there were many other deadly arms to fear." The claim is that Gaddafi provided the IRA with machine guns that allowed them to shoot down said helicopter. The scene shown is a shaky camera focused on a monitor or a TV set. Upon closer inspection, it becomes rather apparent that the scene was taken from the video game Arma II.
The Bohemia Interactive forums blew up as one gamer recognized where the footage came from. The link was quickly dug up for a YouTube video called PIRA Shoot Down British Helicopter 1988.
Looking at the actual video, it becomes painfully obvious to any of us that this is just a poorly constructed fan film. The pixels are pretty obvious, and especially when the car rolled up and parked, or when the helicopter started smoking the editors should have been able to tell it wasn't real footage.
According to Kotaku ITV has come out publicly to state that this was merely a case of human error and they do have real footage. It's actually probably true, too. On June 23, 1988 a PIRA (Provisional Irish Republican Army) unit shot down a British helicopter with heavy machine guns and armor piercing bullets resulting in the injury and not the death of its pilot. I can't be certain of the Gaddafi link to the machine guns other than what the documentary stated.
So here's what I think happened. They needed to provide the footage for the documentary, and instead of going around and finding primary sources with original tapes, they simply did a YouTube search for something like "PIRA Shoots Helicopter 1988" and found this as the top link. They probably didn't even look too closely at what it was, but heard the sad, Irish music in the background and figured it was legit.
This type of error, however, does kind of lead to some hilarious introspective about games and reality. It's often stated that gamers can't tell the difference between video games and reality, and yet here we are. It also shows that sometimes, just because it's in a documentary, that doesn't mean it's true. I'm looking at you, History Channel. It's a really funny mix-up, and really makes the program and ITV look pretty bad. ITV has already pulled the documentary from their website and it's probably back in the editing room with real footage being spliced in. When they pull it out of the vaults people most likely won't remember the video game footage that was spliced in. Of course, that last statement depends upon the assumption that people will still watch ITV.
What's really impressive is that Arma II is an incredibly realistic game. The battles created have the potential to be epic with some players showing off more than 1500 AI (running at 20fps, but still impressive). Just look at this video of a night time battle.
Yeah, ITV did some bad sourcing, but I think we need to give them at least some credit.