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Daily History

August 1 1981 MTV launches

On August 1st 1981, MTV: Music Television went on the air for the first time ever, with the words (spoken by one of MTV’s creators, John Lack): “Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll.” The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star” was the first music video to air on the new cable television channel, which initially was available only to households in parts of New Jersey.

MTV went on to revolutionise the music industry and become an influential source of pop culture and entertainment in the United States and other parts of the world, including Europe, Asia and Latin America, which all have MTV-branded channels.

In MTV’s early days, its programming consisted of basic music videos that were introduced by VJs (video jockeys) and provided for free by record companies. As the record industry recognised MTV’s value as a promotional vehicle, money was invested in making creative, cutting-edge videos.

Some directors, including Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Three Kings) and Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), worked on music videos before segueing into feature films. In the 1980s, MTV was instrumental in promoting the careers of performers such as Madonna, Michael Jackson, Prince and Duran Duran, whose videos played in heavy rotation.

By the late 1980s, MTV started airing non-video programming, geared toward teenagers and young adults. Its popular reality series The Real World launched in 1992 and was followed by such highly rated shows as The Osbournes, Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica, Laguna Beach, My Super Sweet 16 and The Hills.

MTV also debuted animated series including Beavis and Butthead and Celebrity Deathmatch, as well as documentaries, news, game shows and public service campaigns on topics ranging from voting rights to safe sex. MTV developed a reputation for pushing cultural boundaries and taste; the airing of Madonna’s 1989 “Like a Prayer” video is just one famous example.

In 1984, the channel launched the MTV Music Video Awards, which were followed in 1992 by the MTV Movie Awards. Today, MTV’s music-video programming is largely confined to one show, Total Request Live.

This Day In History

About Craig Hill

Social Justice Campaigner. Business and Education Consultant. Former Business/ESL Teacher. Lived in China and USA. Dealing with disability. My articles have been cited in New York Times, BBC, Fox News, Aljazeera, Philippines Star, South China Morning Post, National Interest, news.com.au, Wikipedia and many other international publications.


13 thoughts on “August 1 1981 MTV launches

  1. Nice post, good read!!! Cheers Nonoy Manga

    Posted by nonoymanga | August 1, 2012, 09:00
  2. I loved MTV back in the early days when they played music videos. Now.. pure garbage programing.

    Posted by hanspostcard | August 1, 2012, 09:03
  3. My husband was the very first winner of an MTV contest.

    Posted by Skipping Stars Productions LLC | August 1, 2012, 11:38
  4. I remember that day! I was in New Orleans visiting an old friend and we sat up all night watching MTV.

    Posted by Russel Ray Photos | August 1, 2012, 12:00
  5. Reblogged this on Flamidwyfe's Blog and commented:
    I was 9 months pregnant with Nicholas and remember it well… We had Perry Cable back then and they advertised the start of this crazy music channel… Too bad it barely has any music on it anymore 😦
    What is your favorite MTV memory??

    Posted by flamidwyfe | August 1, 2012, 13:28
  6. Too bad they don’t play much music anymore 😦

    Posted by flamidwyfe | August 1, 2012, 13:29
  7. Hi Craig, I have nominated your blog for Very Inspiring Blogger Award. I hope you accept this nomination.
    regards Luciana

    Posted by cav12 | August 1, 2012, 13:52
  8. 30th years old .. didn’t know that. Not a big fan of MTV – but I know how massive they are. Thanks for this post.

    Posted by viveka | August 2, 2012, 01:36
  9. Hurray!! we were one of the houses that had cable back then. What a day!!! Remember it well.
    Thanks for the trip down memory lane 🙂

    Posted by oceannah | August 2, 2012, 04:25
  10. Reblogged this on I Love History…and Research and commented:
    Good Article from Craig Hill

    Posted by ilovehistoryandresearch | August 2, 2012, 06:44
  11. I was listening when is all began…and watching.

    S. Thomas Summers
    Author of Private Hercules McGraw: Poems of the American Civil War

    Posted by S. Thomas Summers | August 6, 2012, 11:32
  12. …..and another Russel Ray camping trip comes to an end………………..Hope all is well.

    Posted by Russel Ray Photos | August 15, 2012, 14:22


  1. Pingback: I Want My MTV…BACK « YourJesusMind - August 17, 2012

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