MTV Logo 2010.svg
Launched August 1, 1981
Owned by MTV Networks (Viacom)
Picture format 480i (SDTV)
1080i (HDTV)
Country United States
Language English
Headquarters New York City
Formerly called Music Television (August 1, 1981–November 16, 2008)
Sister channel(s) MTV2, Tr3́s, mtvU, VH1,
Nickelodeon, other sister channels
DirecTV Channel 331 (SD/HD)
Channel 1331 (VOD)
Dish Network Channel 160 (SD/HD)
Sky Channel 126
Channel 160 (+1)
Charter Communications Channel 28
UPC Poland Channel 570
Xfinity/Comcast Channel 24
Xfinity/Comcast Channel 884
Part of a series on

  in the United States  

MTV channels
MTV2 · Tr3́s · mtvU

MTV programs

MTV personalities

Censorship on MTV

MTV Networks

MTV, formerly an initialism of Music Television, is an American network based in New York City that launched on August 1, 1981.[1] The original purpose of the channel was to play music videos guided by on-air hosts known as VJs.[2]

At one time, MTV had a profound impact on the music industry and popular culture. 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.

MTV has spawned numerous sister channels in the U.S. and affiliated channels internationally, some of which, like the former MTV Tempo now known as TEMPO Networks, have gone independent. MTV's moral influence on young people, including issues related to censorship and social activism, has been a subject of debate for years. MTV's choice to focus on non-music programming has also been contested relentlessly since the 1990s, demonstrating the channel's previous impact on popular culture.


The launch of MTV

Previous concepts

MTV's pre-history began in 1977, Warner Cable (a division of Warner Communications), and an ancestor of Warner-Amex Satellite Entertainment (WASEC) launched the first two-way interactive cable TV system, QUBE, in Columbus, Ohio. The QUBE system offered many specialized channels. One of these specialized channels was Sight On Sound, a music channel that featured concert footage and music oriented television programs; with the interactive QUBE service, viewers could vote for their favorite songs and artists.

The original programming format of MTV was created by media executive Robert W. Pittman, who later became president and chief executive officer (CEO) of MTV Networks.[3] Pittman had test-driven the music format by producing and hosting a 15-minute show, Album Tracks, on WNBC in the late 1970s.

Pittman's boss, WASEC Executive Vice President John Lack, had shepherded PopClips, a TV series created by former Monkee-turned solo artist Michael Nesmith, whose attention had turned to the music video format by the late 1970s.[4] The inspiration for PopClips came from a similar program on New Zealand's TVNZ network, Radio with Pictures, which premiered in 1976. The concept itself had been in the works since 1966, when major record companies began supplying the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation with promotional music clips to play on the air at no charge. (Few artists made the long trip to New Zealand to appear live.)

Additionally, in the book The Mason Williams FCC Rapport, author Mason Williams states that he pitched an idea to CBS for a television program that featured "video-radio," where disc jockeys would play avant-garde art pieces set to music on the air. CBS cancelled the idea, but Williams premiered his own musical composition, "Classical Gas", on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, where he was head writer. The book in which this claim is made was first published in 1971, ten years before MTV first came on the air.

The Beatles had utilized music videos since the mid 1960s and their debut movie "A Hard Day's Night" from 1964 is often said to be the true inspiration for the network.

Music Television debuts

The black MTV logo with the words "Music" and "Television" used in different various forms from August 1, 1981 to February 7, 2010
The first images shown on MTV were a montage of the Apollo 11 moon landing

On August 1, 1981, at 12:01 a.m., MTV launched with the words "Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll," spoken by John Lack, and played over footage of the first Space Shuttle launch countdown of Columbia (which took place earlier that year) and of the launch of Apollo 11. Those words were immediately followed by the original MTV theme song, a crunching classical tune composed by Jonathan Elias and John Petersen, playing over photos of the Apollo 11 moon landing, with the flag featuring MTV's logo changing various colors, textures, and designs. MTV producers Alan Goodman and Fred Seibert used this public domain footage as a conceit, associating MTV with the most famous moment in world television history.[5] Seibert said they had originally planned to use Neil Armstrong's "One small step" quote, but lawyers said Armstrong owns his name and likeness, and Armstrong had refused, so the quote was replaced with a beeping sound.[6] At the moment of its launch, only a few thousand people on a single cable system in northern New Jersey could see it. Kenneth M. Miller is credited as being the first Technical Director to officially launch MTV from its New York-based Network Operations facility.[7]

The first music video shown on MTV was The Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star". The second video shown was Pat Benatar's "You Better Run." Sporadically, the screen would go black when an employee at MTV inserted a tape into a VCR.[8] Video of the launch of MTV was uploaded onto YouTube in 2009, with the original commercials, and the "black screens" between videos. The "MTV lettering" differed on its first day, and included record label information like year and label name.[9]

"Carouselambra" by Led Zeppelin was played as the closing credits rolled when MTV was first broadcast.

As programming chief, Robert W. Pittman recruited and managed a team for the launch that included Tom Freston (who succeeded Pittman as CEO of MTV networks), Fred Seibert, John Sykes, Carolyn Baker (original head of talent and acquisition),[10] Marshall Cohen (original head of research),[11] Gail Sparrow (of talent and acquisition), Sue Steinberg (executive producer),[12] Julian Goldberg, Studio producers/MTV News Writers Liz Nealon, Brian Diamond and Robin Zorn, Steve Casey (creator of the name MTV and its first program director),[13] Marcy Brafman, Ronald E. "Buzz" Brindle, and Robert Morton.[13]

MTV's effect was immediate in areas where the new music video channel could be picked up. Within a matter of just a couple of months, record shops in areas where MTV was available found themselves selling music that the local radio stations were not playing, such as Men at Work, Bow Wow Wow, and Human League.[14]

Following concepts

HBO also had a 30 minute program of music videos, called Video Jukebox, that first aired around the time of MTV's launch and would last until late 1986. Also around this time, HBO would occasionally play one or a few music videos between movies.[citation needed]

SuperStation WTBS launched Night Tracks on June 3, 1983, with up to 14 hours of music video airplay each late night weekend by 1985. Its most noticeable difference was that black artists received airplay that MTV initially ignored. The program ran until the end of May 1992. A few markets also launched music-only channels; most notably Las Vegas' KVMY Channel 21, which debuted in the summer of 1984 as KRLR-TV Vusic 21. The first video played on that channel was Video Killed the Radio Star, following in the footsteps of MTV.[citation needed]

Shortly after TBS began Night Tracks, NBC launched its music video program called Friday Night Videos which was considered network television's answer to MTV. Later renamed simply Friday Night, the program ran from 1983 to 2002. ABC's contribution to the music video program genre in 1984, ABC Rocks, was far less successful, lasting only a year.[citation needed]

TBS founder Ted Turner started the Cable Music Channel in 1984, designed to play a broader mix of music videos than MTV's rock format allowed. But after one month as a money-losing venture, Turner sold it to MTV, who redeveloped the channel into VH1.[15]

Music videos on MTV

The original purpose of MTV was to be "Music Television," playing music videos 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, guided by on-air personalities known as VJs, or video jockeys. The original taglines of the channel were "You'll never look at music the same way again," and "On cable. In stereo." Although the original MTV channel no longer plays music videos 24/7, several spinoff channels do so, including MTV Hits and MTV Jams. In addition, videos can be played on-demand at their website.

Internationally, the station continues to support a broad selection of music including 4 channels in the UK that broadcast 23 hours of music video per day.

Original VJs and format

MTV's early format was modeled after AOR (album oriented rock) radio. It would become a full top 40 station in 1984. Fresh-faced young men and women were hired to host the network's programming and to introduce videos that were being played. The term VJ (video jockey) was coined, a play on the initialism DJ (disc jockey). Many VJs eventually became celebrities in their own right. The original five MTV VJs in 1981 were Nina Blackwood, Mark Goodman, Alan Hunter, J.J. Jackson and Martha Quinn.[16]

The early music videos that made up the bulk of MTV's programming in the 1980s were promotional videos [called "promos" in the U.K.] that record companies had commissioned for international use or concert clips from whatever sources could be found.

A large number of rock bands and performers of the 1980s were made popular by MTV. Such acts ranged from new wave to hard rock or heavy metal bands[17] such as Adam Ant, Eurythmics,[18] Culture Club,[19] The Fixx, Split Enz, Prince, Ultravox, Duran Duran,[20] Van Halen,[21] Bon Jovi, RATT,[22] Def Leppard,[23] The Police, and The Cars. The network also rotated the videos of "Weird Al" Yankovic, who made a career out of parodying other artists' videos.[24]

MTV also played some classic rock acts from the 1980s and earlier decades, including David Bowie, Dire Straits (whose 1985 song and video "Money for Nothing" both referenced MTV and also included the slogan "I want my MTV" in its lyrics), Journey, Rush, John Mellencamp, Billy Joel, Genesis, Billy Squier, Robert Palmer, Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, The Who and ZZ Top; newly solo acts such as Robert Plant, Phil Collins, Paul McCartney, David Lee Roth, and Pete Townshend; supergroup acts such as Asia, Power Station, The Firm, and Traveling Wilburys as well as forgotten acts such as Michael Stanley Band, Shoes, Blotto and Taxxi. The hard rock band Kiss publicly appeared without their trademark makeup for the first time on MTV in 1983.

Also during the early days of the channel, the VJs would let other stars take over the channel within an hour as "Guest VJs" from musicians (Adam Ant, Billy Idol, Phil Collins, Simon LeBon and Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran, Tina Turner) to comedians (Eddie Murphy, Martin Short, Dan Aykroyd, Steven Wright) as they pick their favorite videos.

Breaking the "color barrier"

Michael Jackson's Thriller spawned several important music videos such as Billie Jean and Thriller.

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.[25]

MTV rejected other black artists' videos, such as Rick James' "Super Freak", because they didn't fit the channel's carefully selected AOR format at the time. The exclusion enraged James; he publicly advocated the addition of more black artists' videos on the channel. Rock legend David Bowie also questioned MTV's lack of black artists during an on-air interview with VJ Mark Goodman in 1983.[26] MTV's original head of talent and acquisition, Carolyn B. Baker, who was black, had questioned why the definition of music had to be so narrow, as had a few others outside the network.

Before 1983, Michael Jackson also struggled to receive airtime on MTV.[27] To resolve the struggle and finally "break the color barrier," the president of CBS Records at the time, Walter Yetnikoff, denounced MTV in a strong, profane statement, threatening to take away MTV's ability to play any of the record label's music videos.[27][28] However, Les Garland, then acquisitions head, said he decided to air Jackson's "Billie Jean" video without pressure from CBS.[26] This was contradicted by CBS head of Business Affairs David Benjamin in Vanity Fair.[6] In any case, MTV began showing the "Billie Jean" video in regular rotation in 1983, forming a lengthy partnership with Jackson and helping other black music artists.[29]

According to The Austin Chronicle, Jackson's video for the song "Billie Jean" was "the video that broke the color barrier, even though the channel itself was responsible for erecting that barrier in the first place."[30] After airing Jackson's music videos, Jackson became even more popular. This move helped other black artists such as Prince, Whitney Houston, and Jackson's younger sister, Janet Jackson break into heavy rotation on the channel. Jonathan Cohen of Billboard magazine commented Janet Jackson's "accessible sound and spectacularly choreographed videos were irresistible to MTV, and helped the channel evolve from rock programming to a broader, beat-driven musical mix."[31]

Other early criticism

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. That year, Rolling Stone's Steven Levy wrote, "MTV's greatest achievement has been to coax rock & roll into the video arena where you can't distinguish between entertainment and the sales pitch."[32] One musician that also criticized MTV for these reasons was Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys; the band released a song in 1985 titled "MTV, Get Off The Air". Various groups and individuals since then have criticized MTV for similar reasons, insisting that the channel has a responsibility as "Music Television" to play more music videos and uphold better critical standards for the music videos that they choose to feature in rotation.

Music video series

MTV introduced 120 Minutes in 1986, a show that would feature low-rotation, alternative rock and other "underground" videos for the next 14 years on MTV and three additional years on sister channel MTV2. The program then became known as Subterranean on MTV2. Then on July 31, 2011, 120 Minutes was currently resurrected with Matt Pinfield taking over hosting duties once again and airing monthly on MTV2.

Another after hours show was added in 1987, Headbangers Ball. This popular show featured heavy metal music and news. Before its abrupt cancellation in 1995, it featured several hosts, notably Riki Rachtman and Adam Curry. Headbangers Ball remains an iconic identifier of heavy metal music. A weekly block of music videos with the name Headbangers Ball has aired since 2003 on sister channel MTV2.

In 1988, MTV debuted Yo! MTV Raps, a hip-hop/rap formatted program. The program continued until August 1995. It was renamed to simply Yo! and played for one hour from 1995 until 1999. The concept was reintroduced as Direct Effect in 2000, which became Sucker Free in 2006 and was cancelled in 2008, after briefly celebrating the 20th anniversary of Yo! MTV Raps throughout the months of April and May 2008. Despite its cancellation on MTV, a weekly countdown of hip-hop videos known as Sucker Free still airs on MTV2.

By the beginning of the 1990s, the channel debuted Dial MTV, a daily top ten music video countdown show for which viewers could call the toll-free telephone number 1-800-DIAL-MTV to request a music video. Although Dial MTV was short-lived, the phone number remained in use for video requests until 2006.

Live concerts

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.[33]

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.

Along with VH1, MTV broadcast the Live 8 concerts, a series of concerts set in the G8 states and South Africa, on July 2, 2005.[34] Live 8 preceded the 31st G8 summit and 20th anniversary of Live Aid. MTV drew heavy criticism for its coverage of Live 8. The network cut to commercials, VJ commentary, or other performances during performances. Complaints surfaced on the Internet over MTV interrupting the reunion of Pink Floyd.[35] In response, MTV president Van Toeffler stated that he wanted to broadcast highlights from every venue of Live 8 on MTV and VH1 and clarified that network hosts talked over performances only in transition to commercials, informative segments, or other musical performances.[36] Toeffler acknowledged that "MTV should not have placed such a high priority on showing so many acts, at the expense of airing complete sets by key artists."[35] He also blamed the Pink Floyd interruption on a mandatory cable affiliate break.[36] MTV averaged 1.4 million viewers for its original July 2 broadcast of Live 8.[35] Consequently, MTV and VH1 aired five hours of uninterrupted Live 8 coverage on July 9, with each channel airing different blocks of artists.[37]

On July 7, 2007, MTV broadcast the Live Earth concerts, which took place around the world to raise awareness of climate change.

Rise of the directors

By the early 1990s, MTV was playing a combination of pop-friendly hard rock acts, chart-topping metal and hard rock acts such as Metallica, Nirvana and Guns N' Roses, pop singers such as Michael Jackson, Madonna, 2 Unlimited and New Kids on the Block, and R&B quartets such as New Edition, Bell Biv Devoe, Tony Toni Tone, and Boyz II Men, while introducing hit rappers Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer. MTV progressively increased its airing of hip hop acts, such as LL Cool J, Naughty By Nature, Onyx and Sir-Mix-A-Lot, and by 1993, the channel added West Coast rappers previously associated with gangsta rap, with a less pop-friendly sound, such as Tupac Shakur, Ice Cube, Warren G, Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg.

To accompany the new sounds, a new form of music videos came about: more creative, funny, artistic, experimental, and technically accomplished than those in the 1980s.[citation needed] Several noted film directors got their start creating music videos. After pressure from the MVPA (Music Video Producers Association – later changed to Music Video Production Association) MTV began listing the names of the videos' directors at the bottom of the credits by December 1992. As a result, MTV's viewers became familiar with the names of Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry, David Fincher, Samuel Bayer, Matt Mahurin, Mark Romanek, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, Anton Corbijn, Mark Pellington, Tarsem, Hype Williams, Jake Scott, Jonathan Glazer, Marcus Nispel, F. Gary Gray, Jim Yukich, Russell Mulcahy, Steve Barron and Marty Callner, among others.

As the PBS series Frontline explored, MTV was a driving force that catapulted music videos to a mainstream audience, turning music videos into an art form as well as a marketing machine that became beneficial to artists. Danny Goldberg, chairman and CEO of Artemis Records, said the following about the art of music videos: "I know when I worked with Nirvana, Kurt Cobain cared as much about the videos as he did about the records. He wrote the scripts for them, he was in the editing room, and they were part of his art. And I think they stand up as part of his art, and I think that's true of the great artists today. Not every artist is a great artist and not every video is a good video, but in general having it available as a tool, to me, adds to the business. And I wish there had been music videos in the heyday of the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones. I think they would've added to their creative contribution, not subtracted from it."[38] The Beatles did produce music videos specifically for television broadcast once their massive popularity made it less practical for them to appear in person.

Alternative is mainstream

Nirvana led a sweeping transition into the rise of alternative rock music on MTV in 1991 with their popular video for "Smells Like Teen Spirit". By late 1991 going into 1992, MTV began frequently airing videos from their heavily promoted "Buzz Bin", such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Nine Inch Nails, Tori Amos, PM Dawn, Arrested Development, Björk, and Gin Blossoms. MTV increased rotation of its weekly alternative music program 120 Minutes and added the daily Alternative Nation to play videos of these and other underground music acts. Subsequently, grunge and alternative rock had a rise in mainstream tastes, while 1980s style hair bands and traditional rockers were phased out, with some exceptions such as Aerosmith and Tom Petty. Older acts such as R.E.M. and U2 remained relevant by making their music more experimental or unexpected.

In 1993, more hit alternative rock acts were on heavy rotation, such as Stone Temple Pilots, Soul Asylum, Rage Against the Machine, Tool, Beck, Therapy?, Radiohead, and The Smashing Pumpkins. Other hit acts such as Weezer, Collective Soul, Blind Melon, The Cranberries, Bush, and Silverchair would follow in the next couple of years. Alternative bands that appeared on Beavis and Butthead also rose to fame, most notably White Zombie.

By the next few years, 1994 through 1996, MTV began promoting new power pop acts, most successfully Green Day and The Offspring, and ska-rock acts such as No Doubt, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, and Sublime. Pop singers were added to the rotation with success as long as they were considered "alternative," such as Alanis Morissette, Jewel, Fiona Apple, and Sarah McLachlan.

Electronica and pop

By 1997, MTV focused heavily on introducing electronica acts into the mainstream, adding them to its musical rotation. Some of the more popular musicians of this group were The Prodigy, The Chemical Brothers, Moby, Aphex Twin, Daft Punk, The Crystal Method, and Fatboy Slim. Some other established musicians proceeded to experiment with electronica and be played on MTV, most notably Madonna, U2, David Bowie, Radiohead and Smashing Pumpkins. That year MTV also attempted to introduce neo-swing bands, but they did not meet with much success.

However, in late 1997, MTV began shifting more progressively towards pop music, inspired by the success of the Spice Girls and the rise of boy bands in Europe. Between 1998 and 1999, MTV's musical content consisted heavily of videos of boy bands such as Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync as well as teen pop "princesses" such as Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Mandy Moore, and Jessica Simpson. Airplay of rock, electronica, and alternative acts was reduced. Hip-hop music continued in heavy rotation, through the likes of Puff Daddy, Master P, DMX, Busta Rhymes, Jay Z, Missy Elliott, Eminem, Ja Rule and their associates. R&B was also heavily represented with acts such as Destiny's Child and Brandy.

Total Request Live

Also by 1997, MTV was criticized heavily for not playing as many music videos as it had in the past. In response, MTV created four shows that centered around music videos: MTV Live, Total Request, Say What?, and 12 Angry Viewers. Also at this time, MTV introduced its new studios in Times Square. A year later, in 1998, MTV merged Total Request and MTV Live into a live daily top ten countdown show, Total Request Live, which would become known as TRL and secure its place as the channel's unofficial flagship program.

The original host of TRL, Carson Daly, brought popularity to the show. TRL spent its first year developing a cult-type following, and every weekday, hundreds of fans would stand in Times Square outside the TRL studios. In the fall of 1999, a live studio audience was added to the show. By spring 2000, the countdown reached its peak, becoming a recognizable icon of popular culture in its first two years of existence. The program enjoyed success playing the top ten pop, rock, R&B, and hip-hop music videos.

Korn's "Got the Life" is considered to be the first "retired" video from TRL.[39][40]

During the September 11 attacks, on the World Trade Center and The Pentagon, MTV suspended all of its programming along with its sister cable channel VH1, and it began simulcasting the CBS News coverage from its then-sister network until about 11:00 p.m. that night. The channels then played a looped set of music videos without commercial interruption until an MTV News special edition of TRL aired on September 14, 2001.

In 2002, Carson Daly left MTV and TRL to pursue a late-night talk show on NBC; after his departure, the relevance and impact of Total Request Live slowly diminished. TRL ultimately remained a part of MTV's regular program schedule for ten years. The series came to an end with a special finale episode, Total Finale Live, which aired November 16, 2008, and featured many special guests from the history of the show and playing its last music video, "...Baby One More Time" by Britney Spears.[41]

Return of the Rock

Beginning in late 1997, MTV progressively reduced its airing of rock music videos, leading to the slogan among skeptics, "Rock is dead."[42] The fact that at the time rock music fans were less materialists and bought less music based on television suggestion were cited as reasons that MTV abandoned its once staple music. MTV instead devoted its musical airtime mostly to pop and hip-hop/R&B music. All rock-centric shows were eliminated and the rock-related categories of the Video Music Awards were pared down to one.

From this time until 2004, MTV took some efforts periodically to reintroduce pop rock music videos to the channel. By 1998 through 1999, the punk-rock band Blink-182 received regular airtime on MTV due in large part to their "All the Small Things" video that made fun of the boy bands that MTV was airing at the time. Meanwhile, some rock bands that were not receiving MTV support, such as Korn and Creed, continued to sell albums. Then, upon the release of Korn's rock/rap hybrid album Follow the Leader, MTV began playing Korn's videos "Got the Life" and "Freak on a Leash", which became popular.

A band sponsored by Korn, Limp Bizkit, received airtime for its cover of George Michael's "Faith", which became a hit. Subsequently, MTV began airing more rap/rock hybrid acts, such as Limp Bizkit and Kid Rock. Some rock acts with more comical videos, such as Rob Zombie, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Foo Fighters, also received airtime.

In the fall of 1999, MTV announced a special Return of the Rock weekend,[43] in which new rock acts received airtime, after which a compilation album was released. System of a Down, Staind, Godsmack, Green Day, Incubus, Papa Roach, P.O.D., Sevendust, Powerman 5000, Slipknot, Kittie, and Static X were among the featured bands. These bands received some airtime on MTV and more so on MTV2, though both channels gave emphasis to the rock/rap acts.

By 2000, Sum 41, Linkin Park, Jimmy Eat World, Mudvayne, Cold, At the Drive-In, Alien Ant Farm, and other acts were added to the musical rotation. MTV also launched digital cable channel MTVX to play rock music videos exclusively, an experiment that lasted until 2002.[44] A daily music video program on MTV that carried the name Return of the Rock ran through early 2001, replaced by a successor, All Things Rock, from 2002 until 2004.

Milestones and specials

Around 1999 through 2001, as MTV aired fewer music videos throughout the day, it regularly aired compilation specials from its then 20-year history to look back on its roots. An all-encompassing special, MTV Uncensored, premiered in 1999 and was later released as a book.[45][46]

MTV celebrated its 20th anniversary on August 1, 2001, beginning with a 12-hour retrospective called MTV20: Buggles to Bizkit, which featured over 100 classic videos played chronologically, hosted by various VJs in reproductions of MTV's old studios. The day of programming culminated in a 3-hour celebratory live event called MTV20: Live and Almost Legal, which was hosted by Carson Daly and featured numerous guests from MTV's history, including the original VJs from 1981. Various other related MTV20 specials aired in the months surrounding the event.

Janet Jackson became the inaugural honoree of the "mtvICON" award, "an annual recognition of artists who have made significant contributions to music, music video and pop culture while tremendously impacting the MTV generation."[47] Subsequent recipients included Aerosmith, Metallica, and The Cure.

Five years later, on August 1, 2006, MTV celebrated its 25th anniversary. On their website,, visitors could watch the very first hour of MTV, including airing the original promos and commercials from Mountain Dew, Atari, Chewels gum, and Jovan. Videos were also shown from The Buggles, Pat Benatar, Rod Stewart, and others. The introduction of the first five VJs was also shown. Additionally, put together a "yearbook" consisting of the greatest videos of each year from 1981 to 2006. MTV itself only mentioned the anniversary once on TRL.

Fewer music videos

Despite targeted efforts to play certain types of music videos in limited rotation, MTV greatly reduced its overall rotation of music videos throughout the early-mid 2000s. While music videos were featured on MTV up to eight hours per day in 2000, 2008 saw an average of just three hours of music videos per day on MTV. The rise of the Internet as a convenient outlet for the promotion and viewing of music videos signaled this reduction.[48]

As the decade progressed, MTV continued to play some music videos instead of relegating them exclusively to its sister channels, but around this time, the channel began to air music videos only in the early morning hours or in a condensed form on Total Request Live. As a result of these programming changes, Justin Timberlake challenged MTV to "play more damn videos!" while giving an acceptance speech at the 2007 Video Music Awards.[49]

Despite the challenge from Timberlake, MTV continued to decrease its total rotation time for music videos in 2007, and the channel eliminated its long-running special tags for music videos such as "Buzzworthy" (for under-represented artists), "Breakthrough" (for visually stunning videos), and "Spankin' New" (for brand new videos). Additionally, the historic Kabel typeface, which MTV displayed at the beginning and end of all music videos since 1981, was phased out in favor of larger text and less information about the video's record label and director. The classic font can still be seen in "prechyroned" versions of old videos on sister network VH1 Classic, which had their title information recorded onto the same tape as the video itself.

For most of 2008, MTV's main source of music video programming was still Total Request Live, airing four times per week, featuring short clips of music videos along with VJs and guests. TRL aired its last episode in November 2008.[50] A hip-hop music video show, Sucker Free, also ended earlier in 2008.

FNMTV Premieres

In the summer of 2008, MTV premiered new music video programming blocks called FNMTV and a weekly special event called FNMTV Premieres, hosted from Los Angeles by Pete Wentz of the band Fall Out Boy, which was designed to premiere new music videos and have viewers provide instantaneous feedback.[51]

The FNMTV Premieres event ended before the 2008 Video Music Awards in September. With the exception of a holiday themed episode in December 2008 and an unrelated Spring Break special in March 2009 with the same title, FNMTV Premieres never returned, leaving MTV without any VJ-hosted music video programs for the first time in its history.

On most weekdays during the rest of 2008, a music video block called FNMTV aired in the early morning hours. It consisted of abbreviated clips of music videos, approximately 60 seconds each. MTV cancelled the early morning FNMTV block in January 2009, replacing it with encore airings of other programs.

AMTV and late 2000s - early 2010s trends

AMTV, the name of MTV's music programming since 2009

Music video programming returned to MTV in March 2009 as AMTV, an early morning block of music videos that originally aired from 3 a.m. to 9 a.m. on most weekdays; see AMTV for current schedule).[52] Unlike the FNMTV block that preceded it, AMTV features many full-length music videos, including some older videos that have been out of regular rotation for many years on MTV. It also features music news updates, interviews, and performances.[52]

During the rest of the day, MTV also plays excerpts from music videos, usually the hook, in split screen format during the closing credits of most programs, along with the address of a website to encourage the viewer to watch the full video online. MTV has positioned its website,, as one of its primary destinations for music videos (see Beyond MTV, below, for more information about and the channel's related Internet ventures).

MTV launched a live talk show, It's On with Alexa Chung, on June 15, 2009. The host of the program, Alexa Chung, has been described as a "younger, more Web 2.0" version of Jimmy Fallon.[53] Although it is filmed in the same Times Square studio where TRL used to be located, the network stated that "the only thing the two shows have in common is the studio location."[54] It's On was cancelled in December of the same year, which again eliminated the only live in-studio programming from MTV's schedule, just one year after TRL was also cancelled.

Shortly after music and pop culture icon Michael Jackson died on June 25, 2009, MTV briefly returned to its original music video format to celebrate his work.[55] The channel aired many hours of Jackson's music videos, accompanied by live news specials featuring reactions from MTV personalities and other celebrities. The temporary shift in MTV's programming culminated the following week with the channel's live coverage of Jackson's memorial service.[56]

MTV again resurrected the long-running series MTV Unplugged in 2009 with performances from acts such as Adele, Katy Perry, and Paramore.[57] However, unlike past Unplugged specials, these new recordings usually only air in their entirety on MTV's website, Nevertheless, short clips of the specials are shown on MTV during the AMTV block of music videos in the early morning hours.

In May 2010, MTV launched 10 on Top, a weekly program that counts down the top 10 most trending and talked about topics of the week. MTV's web site describes the program as, "a half-hour countdown of the top 10 most texted and talked about young celebs at the moment. Their ranking will be influenced by the audience - based on the chatter they elicit, and the headlines they create each week, as well as the amount of buzz about their upcoming projects and events." The show went on hiatus in mid-June 2011. According to host Lenay Dunn's Twitter feed, the show will return August 20, 2011 with new shows.

In September 2010, MTV tried its hand again at a live half hour program called The Seven. The Seven counted down the top seven things you should know about, having aired weekdays at 5 p.m. with a weekend wrap-up at 10 a.m. The show was slightly retooled as it dropped host Julia Alexander and kept host Kevin Manno. The Saturday show was eliminated as well. Like its predecessor, "The Seven" saw its cancellation on June 13, 2011. Manno, per The Seven's Twitter feed, said he is still with MTV.

On June 12, 2011, MTV did a traditional TV premiere of a new installment of MTV Unplugged instead of a web debut. The featured artist was rapper Lil Wayne and the show debuted both on MTV and MTV2.

Although MTV is in their 30th year of broadcasting (as of August 1, 2011), the network apparently ignored this milestone in favor of its current programming schedule. They've outsourced all of their 30th Anniversary Celebrations to its sister networks MTV2 and VH1 Classic. Nathaniel Brown, senior vice president of communications for MTV, confirmed that there were no plans for an on-air MTV celebration like what they did 10 years ago when MTV celebrated its 20th Anniversary. Brown explained, "MTV as a brand doesn't age with our viewers. We are really focused on our current viewers, and our feeling was that our anniversary wasn't something that would be meaningful to them, many of whom weren't even alive in 1981."[58]

In October 2011, Beavis and Butt-Head will return to MTV with new episodes.[59]


MTV has edited a number of music videos to remove references to drugs,[60] sex, violence, weapons, racism, homophobia, or advertising.[61] Many music videos aired on the channel were censored, moved to late-night rotation, or banned entirely from the channel.

In the 1980s, parent-media watchdog groups such as the Parents Music Resource Center criticized MTV over certain music videos that were claimed to have explicit imagery of satanism. MTV has developed a strict policy on refusal to air videos that may depict devil worship or anti-religious themes.[62] This policy led MTV to ban music videos such as "Jesus Christ Pose" by Soundgarden in 1991[63] and "Megalomaniac" by Incubus in 2004.[64]

Other programs on MTV

As MTV expanded, music videos were no longer the centerpiece of its programming. Conventional TV shows came to replace the VJ-guided music video programming. Today, MTV presents a wide variety of non-music-related television shows aimed primarily at the 12 to 18 year old demographic.

Award shows

In 1984, the network produced its first MTV Video Music Awards show, or VMAs. Perceived by some as a fit of self-indulgence by a fledgling network at the time, the VMAs developed into a music-industry showcase marketed as a more relevant youth-targeted antidote to the Grammy awards. The first award show, in 1984, was punctuated by a live performance by Madonna of "Like A Virgin". The statuettes that were handed out were of the MTV moonman, their logo at the time. The award was called "The Elvis".

MTV added the MTV Movie Awards in 1992 with similar success. MTV also created an award show for Europe after the success of the VMAs. The MTV Europe Music Awards, or the EMAs, were created in 1994, ten years after the debut of the VMAs.

First format evolution

In 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.

Animated shows

Steve Fiorilla's sculpture for the MTV logo "Guillotine"

In a continuing bid to become a more diverse network, focusing on youth and culture, as well as music, MTV introduced animated shows to its line-up in the early 1990s. The animation showcase Liquid Television (originally a BBC import, later acquired and produced by MTV) was one of the networks first programs to focus on the medium. In addition to airing original shows created specifically for MTV, the network also occasionally aired episodes of original cartoon series created by sister-station Nickelodeon (Nicktoons) in the early 1990s.

MTV has a history of cartoons with mature themes, notably Beavis and Butthead, Æon Flux, Grimmy, Celebrity Deathmatch, Undergrads, Clone High and Daria. Although the channel has gone on to debut many other animated shows, few of MTV's other cartoon series have been renewed for additional seasons, regardless of their reception.

In the wake of controversy that followed a child burning down his house after allegedly watching Beavis and Butthead, "producers moved the show from its original 7 p.m. time slot to a late-night, 11 p.m. slot. Also, Beavis' tendency to flick a lighter and scream the word "fire" was removed from new episodes, and controversial scenes were removed from existing episodes before rebroadcast.[65] Some of the edits were so extensive that when series creator Mike Judge compiled his Collection DVDs he found out that "some of those episodes may not even exist actually in their original form."[66]

In September 2009, the channel aired Popzilla, which showcased and imitated celebrities in an animated form.

Reality shows

Christina, a contestant on the pilot episode of MTV's Fear

In the mid- to late 1990s and early 2000s, MTV placed a stronger focus on reality shows and related series, building on the success of The Real World and Road Rules in the 1990s. The first round of these shows came in the mid-1990s, with game shows such as Singled Out, and talk shows such as Loveline and The Jon Stewart Show.

The next round of these shows came in approximately the late 1990s, as MTV shifted its focus to prank/comedic shows such as The Tom Green Show and Jackass, soap operas such as Undressed, and game shows such as Real World/Road Rules Challenge, The Blame Game, webRIOT, and Say What? Karaoke. A year later, in 2000, MTV's Fear became one of the first scare-based reality shows and the first reality show in which contestants filmed themselves.

Some of the reality shows on the network also followed the lives of musicians. The Osbournes, a reality show based on the everyday life of Black Sabbath frontman Ozzy Osbourne, his wife Sharon, and two of their children, Jack and Kelly, premiered on MTV in 2002. The show went on to become one of the network's biggest-ever success stories and was also recognized for the Osbourne family members' heavy use of profanity, which MTV bleeped for broadcast.[67] It also kick-started a musical career for Kelly Osbourne,[68] while Sharon Osbourne went on to host her own self-titled talk show on U.S. television.[69] Ozzy Osbourne announced that production for his show would cease in November 2004.[70] In the fall of 2004, Ozzy Osbourne's reality show Battle for Ozzfest aired; the show hosted competitions between bands vying to play as part of Ozzfest, a yearly heavy metal music tour across the United States hosted by Osbourne.

In 2003, MTV added Punk'd, a project by Ashton Kutcher to play pranks on various celebrities, and Pimp My Ride, a show about adding aesthetic and functional modifications to cars and other vehicles. Another popular show was Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica, a reality TV show that followed the lives of pop singers Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey, a music celebrity couple. It began in 2003, ran for four seasons. and ended in early 2005. The couple later divorced. The success of Newlyweds was followed in June 2004 by The Ashlee Simpson Show, which documented the beginnings of the music career of Ashlee Simpson, Jessica Simpson's younger sister.

In 2005 and 2006, MTV continued its focus on reality shows, with the debuts of popular shows such as 8th & Ocean, Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County, NEXT, Two-A-Days, My Super Sweet 16, and Parental Control. Another popular show was Viva La Bam, featuring Bam Margera.

MTV shifted its focus back to Real World-style reality programming in late 2009 with the premiere of Jersey Shore, which brought unprecedented ratings success to the channel and also caused controversy due to some of its content (see Jersey Shore controversy, below).[71] MTV also aired a new show around this time called 16 and Pregnant, which documented the lives of teenagers expecting to have babies. This had a follow up show after the first season called Teen Mom.

MTV Hired follows the interviewing process, candidates meet with career coach Ryan Kahn from University of Dreams and at the end of each episode one candidate lands the job of their dreams.[72][73]

Rebroadcast programs and movies

In recent years, MTV has re-aired other programs from Viacom-owned TV networks, such as BET's College Hill and VH1 programs I Love New York and Flavor of Love.[74] Other programs from non-Viacom networks include reruns of the shows Fastlane (from Fox),[75] Life As We Know It (from ABC),[76] Scrubs (from ABC and NBC), and CW programs America's Next Top Model, Beauty and the Geek,[77] and Hidden Palms. MTV also began showing movies targeted toward the young adult demographic, including 8 Mile,[78] My Boss's Daughter, Shaun of the Dead, and Napoleon Dynamite (the latter of which the network had a hand in producing). The channel has also broadcast several of its own productions of its film-producing division MTV Films, such as Crossroads and Jackass: The Movie,[79] and airs original made-for-television movies from MTV Studios such as Super Sweet 16: The Movie.

In 2007, MTV aired the reality show A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila, chronicling MySpace sensation Tila Tequila's journey to find a companion. Her bisexuality played into the series—both male and female contestants were vying for love—and was the subject of criticism.[80] It was the second-most popular show at that time, behind The Hills.[81] A spin-off series from Shot of Love, That's Amoré!, followed a similar pursuit from previous Shot at Love contestant Domenico Nesci. MTV also welcomed Paris Hilton to their lineup in October 2008 with the launch of her new reality series, Paris Hilton's My New BFF.[82] In 2009, MTV aired Snoop Dogg's second reality show with the channel, Dogg After Dark, and the show College Life, based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Scripted programming

MTV expanded its programming focus in 2009 to include scripted comedy programs. The channel was reported to be developing a number of scripted half-hour projects, including an animated series and five additional pilots.[83] With backlash towards what some consider too much superficial content on the network, a recent New York Times article also stated the intention of MTV to shift its focus towards more socially conscious media, which the article labels "MTV for the Obama era."[84] Shows in that vein included T.I.'s Road to Redemption and Fonzworth Bentley's finishing school show From G's to Gents. Western Europa programs such as Deutschland Liebt Günther and (separately based tagging them) series Das ist so Togo became a big hit in Europe in 2004 and 2006. There was more success for MTV when another (reality) show entitled The Buried Life was a great success for the station. It's about four friends traveling across the country to check off a list of "100 things to do before I die" and help others along the way, was another example of MTV's revised programming focus.

Image and branding

MTV is widely considered the first television network to develop itself as a "brand," with a unified vocabulary, voice, and visual identity. Senior management, including John Lack, Bob Pittman, and Fred Seibert, all started their careers in radio, which had developed station brands as a critical audience development tool for decades, and Seibert led the teams that became directly responsible for the brand's creation.

MTV's logo, the large block letter "M" with graffiti-style letters "TV" superimposed and the words "Music Television" underneath, quickly became ubiquitous and instantly recognizable in popular culture. The last three decades have brought some change and evolution to MTV's iconic image and branding.

Original logos and IDs

An early MTV station ID

The MTV logo was designed in 1981 by Manhattan Design, a collective formed by Frank Olinsky,[85] Pat Gorman, and Patty Rogoff, under the guidance of MTV's original creative director, Fred Seibert. The 'M' was sketched by Rogoff, with the 'TV' spray painted by Olinksky.[86]

Throughout MTV's early days, the channel's main logo was a large yellow "M" with red letters "TV," but unlike most networks' logos, the MTV logo constantly morphed and adapted with different colors, patterns, and images filling in the large block letter. The very first moments of MTV featured an adaptation of the first landing on the moon, directly from NASA still images (a concept of Seibert's, executed by Buzz Potamkin and Perpetual Motion Pictures).[87] After the "moon landing," as well as the top of every hour until at least the mid-1980s (which ran "more than 15,000" times each year, according to Seibert),[87] featured a rapidly changing station ID logo that changed its appearance several times per second. The only constant aspects of MTV's logo at the time were its general shape and proportions; everything else was dynamic.[88]

The channel's most popular image and branding campaign, "I want my MTV!," was launched in 1982. The media strategy and creative executions were developed by George Lois, based on a cereal commercial from the 1950s, "I want my Maypo!" that George created.[89] Over the years the campaign featured known artists and celebrities including Pete Townshend, Pat Benatar, Adam Ant, David Bowie, The Police, Kiss, Culture Club, Billy Idol, Hall & Oates, Cyndi Lauper, Madonna, Lionel Richie, Ric Ocasek, John Mellencamp, Peter Wolf, Joe Elliot, Stevie Nicks, Rick Springfield and Mick Jagger interacting with the MTV logo on-air, encouraging viewers to call their cable or satellite providers and request that MTV be added to their local channel lineups.[88] Eventually, the slogan became so ubiquitous it became incorporated as a sung (by Sting) lyric in the Mark Knofler penned Dire Straits' record "Money for Nothing."

1990s and 2000s updates

MTV's original 1981 and revised 2009 logos both feature dynamic patterns and images

Once MTV's original morphing logo had run its course, the channel began to use a solid color white logo that was otherwise the same as the original. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, MTV updated its on-air appearance at the beginning of every year and again each summer, creating a consistent brand across all of its music-related shows. This style of channel-wide branding came to an end as MTV drastically reduced its number of music-related shows in the early to mid-2000s. At this time, MTV introduced a static, single-color digital on-screen graphic during all of its other programming.

2010 rebranding

Since the premiere of the short-lived FNMTV in 2008, MTV has used a revised, chopped version of its traditional logo during most of its on-air programming. The revised logo is largely the same as MTV's original logo, but it excludes the "Music Television" caption, the bottom section of the "M" block letter, and the trailing letter "V" that branched off to the side of the original logo.[90] However, much like the ever-changing patterns that filled MTV's original 1981 logo, the new 2010 logo is designed to be filled in with an unlimited variety of pictures and images. This new logo formally became MTV's official brand mark on February 8, 2010, when it debuted on MTV's website.[91] The channel's long-running official tagline "Music Television" was officially dropped at this time.[90] It is used worldwide, except for several countries, as of July 1, 2011. It was first adopted for MTV Films with the 2010 release Jackass 3D.

MTV's rebranding was overseen by Popkern.[92]

Moral influence and controversies

MTV's near-ubiquitous presence in popular culture for 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.[93]

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.[94] 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.[95]

The Christian right organization American Family Association has also criticized MTV from perceptions of negative moral influence,[96] even going as far as to describe MTV as promoting a "pro-sex, anti-family, pro-choice, drug culture."[97]

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."[98][99]

Super Bowl controversy

On the heels of parent company Viacom's purchase of CBS, MTV was selected to produce the halftime show at Super Bowl XXXV, airing on CBS and featuring Britney Spears, 'N Sync and Aerosmith.[100] Due to its success, MTV was invited back to produce another Super Bowl halftime show, which would spark a moral influence debate and lead to sweeping changes in Super Bowl halftime shows, MTV's own programming, and even music played on the radio.

When CBS aired Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004, its sister network was again chosen to produce the halftime show, with performances by such artists as Nelly, Diddy, Janet Jackson, and Justin Timberlake. The show became controversial after Timberlake tore off part of Jackson's outfit while performing his hit song "Rock Your Body" with her, revealing her right breast. All involved parties apologized for the incident, and Timberlake referred to the incident as a "wardrobe malfunction".[101]

Michael Powell, then-chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, ordered an investigation of the show the day after its broadcast.[101] In the weeks following the controversial halftime show, MTV censored much of its programming. Several music videos, including "This Love" by Maroon 5 and "I Miss You" by Blink-182, were edited for sexual content.[64] In September 2004, the FCC ruled that the halftime show was indecent and fined CBS $550,000.[102] The FCC upheld its decision in 2006,[103] but federal judges reversed the fine in 2008.[104]

The Super Bowl itself would not feature another modern act for its halftime show until The Black Eyed Peas performed at Super Bowl XLV in 2011.

Jersey Shore controversy

MTV received a significant amount of criticism from Italian American organizations for the show Jersey Shore, which premiered in December 2009.[105] The controversy was due in large part to the manner in which MTV marketed the show, as it liberally used the word Guido to describe the cast members. The word Guido is generally regarded as an ethnic slur when referring to Italians and Italian Americans. One promotion stated that the show was to follow, "eight of the hottest, tannest, craziest Guidos,"[106] while yet another advertisement stated, "[the show] exposes one of the tri-state area's most misunderstood species... the GUIDO. Yes, they really do exist! Our Guidos and Guidettes will move into the ultimate beach house rental and indulge in everything the Seaside Heights, New Jersey scene has to offer."[107]

Prior to the series debut, UNICO National (which is the largest Italian American organization) formally requested that MTV cancel the show.[108] In a letter to the network, UNICO called the show a ", deliberate and disgraceful attack on Italian Americans..."[109] UNICO National President Andre DiMino said in a statement "MTV has festooned the 'bordello-like' house set with Italian flags and red, white and green maps of New Jersey while every other cutaway shot is of Italian signs and symbols. They are blatantly as well as subliminally bashing Italian-Americans with every technique possible..."[110] Around this time, other Italian organizations joined the fight, including the NIAF,[111] the Order Sons of Italy in America and the internet watch-dog.[112][113]

MTV responded to the controversy by issuing a press release which stated in part, "the Italian-American cast takes pride in their ethnicity. We understand that this show is not intended for every audience and depicts just one aspect of youth culture."[105] Since the calls for the show's removal, several sponsors have requested that their ads not be aired during the show. These sponsors include Dell, Domino's and American Family Insurance.[114] Despite the loss of certain advertisers, MTV has not canceled the show. Moreover, the show has seen its audience gradually increase from its premiere in December 2009.

Dude, This Sucks stunt

A pilot for a show called Dude, This Sucks was canceled after teens attending a taping at the Snow Summit Ski Resort in January 2001 were sprayed with liquid fecal matter by the group The Shower Rangers. The teens later sued.[115] MTV later apologized and said that the segment would not air.[116][117]

Social activism

In addition to its regular programming, MTV has a long history of promoting social, political, and environmental activism in young people. The channel's vehicles for this activism have been Choose or Lose, encompassing political causes and encouraging viewers to vote in elections; Fight For Your Rights, encompassing anti-violence and anti-discrimination causes; and think MTV, the newest umbrella for all of MTV's social activism.

Choose or Lose

MTV Choose or Lose logo

In 1992, MTV started a pro-democracy campaign called Choose or Lose, to encourage up to 20 million people to register to vote, and the channel hosted a town hall forum for then-candidate Bill Clinton.[118]

In recent years, other politically diverse programs on MTV have included True Life, which documents people's lives and problems, and MTV News specials, which center on very current events in both the music industry and the world. One special show covered the 2004 U.S. Presidential election, airing programs focused on the issues and opinions of young people, including a program where viewers could ask questions of Senator John Kerry.[119] MTV worked with P. Diddy's "Vote or Die" campaign, designed to encourage young people to vote.[120]

Additionally, MTV aired a documentary covering a trip by the musical group Sum 41 to the Democratic Republic of Congo, documenting the conflict there. The group ended up being caught in the midst of an attack outside of the hotel and were subsequently flown out of the country.[121]

The channel also began showing presidential campaign commercials for the first time during the 2008 US presidential election.[122] This has led to criticism from the right, with Jonah Goldberg opining that "MTV serves as the Democrats' main youth outreach program."[123]

Fight For Your Rights

In the 1990s and early 2000s, MTV promoted annual campaigns known as Fight For Your Rights, with the slogan "Speak Out/Stand Up Against Violence," to bring forth awareness on America's crime, drugs and violence issues.

On April 6, 2001, MTV voluntarily ceased regular programming for 24 hours as part of the year's hate crimes awareness campaign. On that night, MTV aired a made-for-TV movie Anatomy of a Hate Crime, based on a true story of the 1998 murder of 21-year old Matthew Shepard, a gay college student. After the film and a discussion, MTV went dark and showed names of hate crime victims.

think MTV

MTV's most recent activism campaign is think MTV, which discusses current political issues such as same-sex marriage, U.S. elections, and war in other countries. The slogan of the program is "Reflect. Decide. Do." As part of think MTV, the channel also airs a series of pro-conservation ads called Break The Addiction, as a way of encouraging their viewers to find ways to use less fossil fuels and energy.

think MTV addresses twelve major issue areas: discrimination, environment, politics, health & self, crime & violence, poverty & disease, human rights, war & peace, relationships & sex, faith, substance abuse, and education. Young people are encouraged to choose the issues that resonate most and take action to make a positive change. The motto is, "Your cause. Your effect." think MTV is also integrated in MTV's current programming.

Beyond MTV

Since its launch in 1981, the brand "MTV" has expanded to include many additional properties beyond the original MTV channel, including a variety of sister channels in the U.S., dozens of affiliated channels around the world, and an Internet presence through and related websites.

Sister channels in the U.S.

MTV operates a group of channels under the name MTV Networks, a division of its corporate parent, Viacom. In 1985, MTV saw the introduction of its first true sister channel, VH1, which was originally an acronym for "Video Hits One" and was designed to play adult contemporary music videos. Today, VH1 is aimed at celebrity and popular culture programming. Another sister channel, CMT, targets the country music and southern culture market.

The advent of satellite television and digital cable brought MTV greater channel diversity, including its current sister channels MTV2 and MTV Tr3s (now Tr3s), which initially played music videos exclusively but now focus on other programming. Music videos still occupy most of the schedule on two additional channels, MTV Hits and MTV Jams. MTV also broadcasts mtvU, a college-oriented channel on campus at various universities.

Recently, MTV began broadcasting with Chirs Wowkanyn"MTV HD," a 1080i high definition simulcast of MTV. However only the network's original series after 2010 (with some pre-2010 content) are aired in high definition, while music videos, despite being filmed for high definition presentation, are still presented in 4:3 standard definition, forcing them into a windowboxing type of presentation. DirecTV, Dish Network, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, U-verse, & Verizon FiOS carry the HD channel.

MTV Networks also operates Palladia, a high-definition channel that features original HD programming and HD versions of programs from MTV, VH1, and CMT. The station was launched in January 2006 as MHD (Music: High Definition). The channel was officially rebranded as Palladia on September 1, 2008 to coincide with the shift to more exclusive HD programming.[124]

In 2005 and 2006, MTV launched a series of channels for Asian Americans. The first channel was MTV Desi, launched in July 2005, dedicated toward South-Asian Americans. Next was MTV Chi, in December 2005, which catered to Chinese Americans. The third was MTV K, launched in June 2006 and targeted toward Korean Americans. Each of these channels featured music videos and shows from MTV's international affiliates as well as original U.S. programming, promos, and packaging. All three of these channels ceased broadcasting on April 30, 2007.

The Internet in 2008

In the late 1980s, before the World Wide Web, in the days of the Gopher protocol, MTV VJ Adam Curry began experimenting on the Internet. He registered the then-unclaimed domain name "" in 1993 with the idea of being MTV's unofficial new voice on the Internet. Although this move was sanctioned by his supervisors at MTV Networks at the time, when Curry left to start his own web-portal design and hosting company, MTV subsequently sued him for the domain name, which led to an out-of-court settlement.[125]

The service hosted at the domain name was originally branded "MTV Online" during MTV's first few years of control over it in the mid-1990s. It served as a counterpart to the America Online portal for MTV content, which existed at AOL keyword MTV until approximately the end of the 1990s. After this time, the website became known as simply "" and served as the Internet home base for all MTV and MTV News content. experimented with entirely video-based layouts between 2005 and 2007. The experiment began in April 2005 as MTV Overdrive, a streaming video service that supplemented the regular website.[126] Shortly after the 2006 Video Music Awards, which were streamed on and heavily utilized the MTV Overdrive features, MTV introduced a massive change for, transforming the entire site into a Flash video-based entity.[127] Much of users' feedback about the Flash-based site was negative, demonstrating a dissatisfaction with videos that played automatically, commercials that could not be skipped or stopped, and the slower speed of the entire website. The experiment ended in February 2006 as reverted to a traditional HTML-based website design with embedded video clips, in the style of YouTube and other popular video-based websites.[128]

Today, is still the official website of MTV, and it expands on the channel's broadcasts by bringing additional content to its viewers. The site's notable features include an online version of MTV News, podcasts, and a video streaming service supported by commercials. There are also movie features, profiles and interviews with recording artists and from MTV's television programs.

The channel responded to the rise of the Internet as the new central place to watch music videos in October 2008 by launching MTV Music, a website that features thousands of music videos from MTV and VH1's video libraries, dating back to the earliest videos from 1981.

A newly created division of the company, MTV New Media, announced in 2008 that it would produce its own original web series, in an attempt to create a bridge between old and new media.[129] The programming is available to viewers via personal computers, cell phones, iPods, and other digital devices.[130]

MTV around the world

MTV Networks has also launched numerous native-language MTV-branded music channels to dozens of countries around the world. MTV UK operates 16 channels solely in the United Kingdom. Other channels include, but are not limited to, MTV Belgium, MTV Brazil, MTV Canada, MTV Turkey, MTV Netherlands, MTV Ireland, MTV Greece, MTV Hungary, MTV Russia, MTV Spain, MTV Austria, MTV France, MTV Germany, MTV Europe, MTV Portugal, MTV Adria, MTV Denmark, MTV Finland, MTV Italy, MTV Israel, MTV Norway, MTV Poland, MTV Czech, MTV Romania, MTV Lithuania, MTV Latvia, MTV Estonia, MTV Sweden, MTV Asia, MTV Taiwan, MTV Korea, MTV Japan, MTV Thailand, MTV Indonesia, MTV India, MTV Philippines (closed from 16 February 2010), MTV Vietnam (just launched on July 1, 2011), MTV Pakistan, MTV Ukraine, MTV Latin America, MTV Australia, MTV New Zealand, and MTV Base in Africa, MTV Arabia and MTV Adria which includes MTV Slovenia, MTV Serbia and MTV Croatia. An international version of MTV known as MTV International was shown on the Internet from 2006 to 2007.sacWED MTV Lithuania, MTV Latvia and MTV Estonia (MTV Networks Baltic) was closed 2009.11.18 with about 3 000 000 EUR debt.


In 2010, a study by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation found that of the 207.5 hours of prime time programming, 42% included content reflecting the lives of gay, bisexual and transgendered people. This was the highest in the industry and the highest percentage ever.[131]

See also


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