August 1, 1981. That’s when the music industry took a visual form!!! MTV started broadcastin then. The original purpose of the channel was to play music videos guided by on-air hosts known as VJs. Slogans such as “I want my MTV” and “MTV is here” became embedded in public thought, the concept of the VJ was popularized, the idea of a dedicated video-based outlet for music was introduced, and both artists and fans found a central location for concert music events, news, and promotion. MTV has also been referenced countless times in popular culture by musicians, other TV channels and television program, films, and books.
During MTV’s first few years on the air, very few black artists were included in rotation on the channel. Those who were in MTV’s rotation included Eddy Grant, Tina Turner and Donna Summer. The very first non-white act played on MTV in the US was UK band The Specials, which featured an integrated line-up of white and black musicians and vocalists. The Specials’ video “Rat Race” was played as the 58th video on the station’s first day of broadcasting. As early as 1983, because of MTV’s visibility as a promotional tool for the recording industry, the channel was accused of devaluing the importance of music, replacing quality with a purely visual aesthetic and shunning equally popular but less image-centric or single-based acts.
Throughout its history, MTV has covered global benefit concert series live. For most of July 13, 1985, MTV showed the Live Aid concerts, held in London and Philadelphia and organized by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure to raise funds for famine relief in Ethiopia. While the ABC network showed only selected highlights during primetime, MTV broadcast 16 hours of coverage.
In 1989, MTV began to premiere music-based specials such as MTV Unplugged, an acoustic performance show, which has featured dozens of acts as its guests and has remained active in numerous iterations on various platforms for over 20 years.
n 1985, Viacom bought Warner-Amex Satellite Entertainment, which owned MTV and Nickelodeon, renaming the company MTV Networks and beginning this expansion. Before 1987, MTV featured almost exclusively music videos, but as time passed, they introduced a variety of other shows, including some that were originally intended for other channels.
Non-music video programming began in the late 1980s with the introduction of a music news show The Week in Rock, which was also the beginning of MTV’s news division, MTV News. Around this time, MTV also introduced a dance show, Club MTV, and a game show, Remote Control.
These new shows would be just the beginning of new genres of shows to impact MTV. As the format of the network continued to evolve, more genres of shows began to appear. In the early 1990s, MTV debuted its first reality shows, The Real World and Road Rules.
Moral influence and controversies
MTV’s near-ubiquitous presence in popular culture for almost 30 years has led the channel to be in the center of the ongoing debate over the cultural and moral influence of music and television on young people and society. The channel has thus found itself a target of criticism by various groups about programming choices, social issues, political correctness, sensitivity, censorship, and a perceived negative moral influence on young people.
In 2005, the Parents Television Council released a study titled MTV Smut Peddlers
, which sought to expose what PTC believed was excessive sexual, profane, and violent content on the channel, based on MTV’s Spring Break programming from 2004. Jeanette Kedas, an MTV network executive, called the PTC report “unfair and inaccurate” and “underestimating young people’s intellect and level of sophistication,” while L. Brent Bozell III, then-president of the PTC, stated that “the incessant sleaze on MTV presents the most compelling case yet for consumer cable choice,” referring to the practice of cable and satellite companies to allow consumers to pay for channels à la carte
The Christian right organization American Family Association has also criticized MTV from perceptions of negative moral influence,
even going as far as to describe MTV as promoting a “pro-sex, anti-family, pro-choice, drug culture.”
In April 2008, PTC released The Rap on Rap, a study covering hip-hop and R&B music videos rotated on programs 106 & Park and Rap City, both shown on BET, and Sucker Free on MTV. PTC urged advertisers to withdraw sponsorship of those programs, whose videos PTC stated targeted children and teenagers “with adult content…once every 38 seconds.”