At first it sounded like another network newsbreak. Israel, the anchorman said, was occupied by enemy forces. Los Angeles was the only open city left in America. Film at 11.

But when the anchorman is Howard K. Smith, you've got to consider the news source. After all, he was the anchorman in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," "The Man," in which James Earl Jones played the nation's first black president, and "The Candidate," in which Robert Redford was elected to the Senate -- all kinds of shows in which things that haven't happened do. And here he is now, not doing a real network newsbreak, but serving as anchor for the Freedom Network, giving the nightly news fill that sets the stage for the ensuing adventure of "V."

"It's my first time as part of a series," said Smith. "I did 10 introductions recently in Hollywood. It was sensational as hell," giving all the developments in the ongoing hassle between the Earthlings and the alien visitors.

"I've done some 15 movies of this sort," said the longtime network correspondent and commentator. "The first was Gore Vidal's 'The Best Man.' Someone got the idea (of doing such films) while I was at the network, and I said I'd like to see how the other half lives, where they're not bound by facts."

And how does the other half live? "They worry more," he said, "about the ratings. A network has do to the news, no matter what the ratings." But in entertainment, he said, the Nielsen numbers are crucial.

Smith, who lives in Washington, said he quit broadcasting to do a book, but was interrupted by invitations to speak. "That's more interesting than living like a monk" while doing a book, he said. "It's more fun than talking to a machine that doesn't talk back. And it's as lucrative."