The Birth of MTV

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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.  At the moment of its launch, only a few thousand people on a single cable system in northern New Jersey could see it.

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.” “Carouselambra” by Led Zeppelin was played as the closing credits rolled.

During MTV’s first few years on the air, MTV was criticized for not including more black artists in their rotation. The president of CBS Records at the time, Walter Yetnikoff, denounced MTV in a strong statement, threatening to take away MTV’s ability to play any of the record label’s music videos. MTV began showing Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”  in regular rotation in 1983, forming a lengthy partnership with Jackson and helping other black music artists.

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. (Wikipedia)