1. Video Killed the Radio Star -The concept and development of MTV
2. Remember to better think twice –Ethnic minorities and gender at MTV
3. Material Girl –MTV as a global marketing instrument
4. Money for nothing -Social effects of MTV in Europe
This paper is about the Social Effects of MTV (Music Television) in Europe. I will try to give an overview about the development of MTV in the US more than 20 years ago and its effects on the European modern society, especially concerning globalisation, the intimidation of sexism and racism and the spread of capitalism and its impacts.
The headlines of the chapters are taken from popular music songs whose video clips were played on MTV.
1. Video Killed the Radio Star - The concept and development of MTV
Music Television (MTV) was born on the 01.st of August 1981, at 12.01 AM EST. The delivery was broadcasted on 225 cable systems in the United Stats of America reaching 2.1 million households. The first host to be seen on the MTV screen was the former New York Radio DJ Mark Goodman. He welcomed the audience with the song “Video Killed the Radio Star” by Buggles. The title of this first video clip was the war whoop that MTV cried out in order to start its march of victory through the global media and the purses of its young peer group.
Rock music had been around in America for 27 years until MTV was founded. Now this music was not only audible anymore but became visible. MTV provided its recipients with video clips 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The channel shows approximately ten to twelve videos per hour. Its announcers rarely mention the time of the day between the video clips and the flashy and glitzy music videos are only interrupted for commercials or one of the entertaining MTV shows as “Jackass”, “Beavis and Buthead” or the “MTV News”, which mainly report information about stars or entertaining business. MTVs “5 minute rule’ says that if a recipient does not like the actual video or music type, he or she can be sure that in 5 minutes something else will be on the screen.
Before MTV was founded, the mother company Warner Communications did some research among 600 people in the US. The data of the 20 to 40 years old adults showed that the most likely viewer will be a white suburban 23/ 24 year old, educated, affluent male with a strong commitment to rock music and an equally strong aversion to contemporary soul.
In later research the recipients explained that their main motives for viewing MTV are entertainment and information. They described that they talk about the videos with their friends and that the video clips would help understanding the lyrics of the artists. These types of social interaction interpretation of the lines vary according to gender, race and fandom. MTV is appraised by its audience to be cool, novel, exciting and amusing
MTV became profitable in 1984. Three years later the channel moved across the Atlantic to Europe. In 1995 MTV reached 320 million households in 90 countries on 5 continents, 24 hours a day. According to the UNO there are circa 160 countries in the world. An early marketing slogan of MTV was “One Planet One Music”. Today the program can be viewed all over the world: wherever there is satellite-TV reception. The only station with the same global character is CNN. MTV is considered to be cultural phenomenon that was made possible by the rapid development of video technology and the cable industry.
2. Remember to better think twice – Ethnic minorities and gender at MTV
In 1983 a milestone for coloured musicians was gained. MTV refused to play music from black artists if it was not obviously rock music. They also refused to play Michael Jackson’s single “Billie Jean” from the bestseller album Thriller though the song was already the number one of the “hot one hundred charts” in March 1983. The record company CBS (today: Sony) impended to take away the video clips of all their other stars including Billy Joel and Pink Floyd if MTV would not approve to play Jacko’s clip. MTV finally agreed o this huge crossover of its former politics and in the following years the music of coloured artists became more and more important for MTV. The title of this chapter ”remember to better think twice” is a line from Michael Jackson’s song “Billie Jean”. Today MTV plays foreign (not US/ British) videos, if the music is conform to US rock music styles.
Although ethnic minorities are still underepresentated on MTV, some of the most successful and highly rotated music videos on the channel are from non-white artists, as for example Jennifer Lopez or Lenny Kravitz. The music of these stars is today part of mainstream culture and MTV “thought twice” and had to accept this. Actually black musicians are sometimes assessed to have more sex-appeal than white performers and: sex sells. Due to this MTV today gladly supports coloured people to provide their audience and sell its on-air-time to its advertisers. Nevertheless MTV is blamed to reinforce racial and gender stereotypes. Several quantitative Empirical Studies say that women and minorities are underrepresented on MTV’s video clips and that women are depicted as sex objects. Music clips also depict women as submissive to men. Sherman and Dominick (in Banks 1996: 3) point out that one half of the women are dressed provocatively, but only one tenth of men wear obviously sexual attractive clothes. They conclude that women wore provocative clothing to be depicted as sex objects. These stereotypes are also strengthened by the professions that are part of the stories of video clips. Men in music videos mainly work as doctors, firemen or mechanics. Women work as cheerleaders, secretaries or librarians. Racial minorities are used to give a character to dancers, athletes or entertainers.
This concept sells globally. The mixture of quick, moving pictures with beautiful or cool people and the stereo sound of music beats fill MTV’s airtime. When MTV moved over the Oceans the board of the channel decided to continue the program in English, also abroad. Language was considered to be second important to the universal language of Anglo-American Music. John Fiske writes that the cuts of the videos often do not have connection to the lyrics but to the beat of the music. This is one effect of the “overflow of the body over the mind” that is causing pleasure among the audience of MTV. This pleasure can be activated by the feeling of freedom and the loss of the boundaries of social control. Margaret Morse concludes: “Rock music is depicted as blowing down the walls society has erected – but the rich and powerful are happy to dance to it—it doesn’t change the world” (Morse in Journal of Communication Inquiry: 18). MTV’s concept tries to produce these feelings.
 Roe & Meyer in: Wieten 2000, Banks 1996
 Morse in Journal of Communication Inquiry 1986
 Banks 1996: 34
 Lull in Roe & Meyers in Wieten: 145
 Roe & Meyers in Wieten 2000: 147
 ebd: 141ff
 ebd: 141ff
 Frey in Communication Inquiry 1986
 Banks 1996: 40
 ebd 1996: 2
 Ellsworth, Larson & Selvin in Journal of Communication Inquiry: 57
 Banks 1996: 2
 ebd 1996: 1ff
 Fiske 1987: 240ff
 Fiske in Journal of Communication Inquiry 1986
- Quote paper
- Sarah Pust (Author), 2002, Sex, Ads & Rock 'n Roll - Some Social Effects of MTV in Europe, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/24810