Music television is a thing of the past. Perhaps the most easily observable instance comes in the form of MTV, a television station that was created as an outlet for rock music in the early 1980s. This is ironic considering that when the station currently plays music-related programming, rock ‘n’ roll is the last genre considered. Why a station that gained its reputation for playing videos which broke the color barrier and provided an entire generation with a creative outlet has virtually ceased to play music boggles industry critics and fans alike.
Statistics alone can illustrate this dramatic change: in 2000 MTV played eight hours of music videos in their daily circulation, but in 2008 the station aired only three hours a day. However, on international stations of MTV an average of 23 hours of music-related programming plays per day. Music videos have sadly been replaced with “reality television shows” and other programs that seek to fulfill pop culture demands. For the first time in the station’s history, no VJ-hosted music programs exist.
After its inception, MTV was called a ‘great achievement’ by Rolling Stone for its coverage of rock ‘n’ roll music (in particular, allowing Nirvana a sweeping transition into televised alt-rock). In its early days MTV would reject music videos from artists that didn’t fit their rock ‘n’ roll dominated image and program format.
Currently, the only time that music is really even mentioned by the network is in the case of someone’s death or during an annual awards show. At the 2007 Video Music Awards, pop culture icon Justin Timberlake even went as far as to tell MTV to “play more videos!” and was met with roaring applause.
Meeting the demands of an audience is fundamental, albeit something that MTV has chosen to ignore. I’m fairly certain that there are more viewers wondering about where the ‘music’ has gone in the network’s title than about “Jersey Shore.”