Music Television

views updated


MUSIC TELEVISION. MTV (Music Television) is a cable channel launched by Warner Amex Satellite Entertainment in 1981 and acquired by Viacom in 1987. Supported by advertising, it began as a service providing music videos twenty-four-hours per day in programs hosted by "video jockeys" (VJs), a term coined by MTV. Before long, programming diversified as the channel introduced game shows (Remote Control, Singled Out); animated series (Beavis and Butt-Head, Daria); news programs; and later, a soap opera, Undressed.

Perhaps more than any other channel, MTV helped launch the cable explosion in America. Many viewers who had been reluctant to sign up for pay cable services ultimately capitulated to the pleas of their children and teenagers who could find on MTV what was not available on broadcast channels. MTV typified cable's approach to television by targeting specific audiences (in this case, persons from twelve to thirty-four years old) rather than aiming for the undifferentiated mass audience of broadcast TV. Reality TV shows like Survivor and Big Brother, which would emerge in Europe in the 1990s and in the United States in 2000, owe their heritage to the MTV series The Real World, a show that taped seven strangers living together in an apartment and was introduced on MTV in 1992.

Although many parents and educators decried the negative influences of MTV on youth, pointing most often to videos and programming with sexual content, the channel had an important civic dimension as well. Its Rock the Vote and Choose or Lose campaigns advocated voting among young people and presidential candidates made MTV a stop on their campaign trails beginning in the 1990s.


Denisoff, R. Serge. Inside MTV. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction, 1988.

Goodwin, Andrew. Dancing in the Distraction Factory: Music Television and Popular Culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987.

Kaplan, E. Ann. Rocking around the Clock: Music Television, Post-modernism, and Consumer Culture. New York: Methuen, 1987.


See alsoMusic Industry ; Music: Popular ; Rock and Roll ; Television: Programming and Influence .