Influence and controversies
The channel has been a target of criticism by various groups about programming choices, social issues, political correctness, sensitivity, censorship, and a perceived negative social influence on young people. Portions of the content of MTV's programs and productions have come under controversy in the general news media and among social groups that have taken offense. Some within the music industry criticized what they saw as MTV's homogenization of rock 'n' roll, including the punk band the Dead Kennedys, whose song "M.T.V. – Get Off the Air" was released on their 1985 album Frankenchrist, just as MTV's influence over the music industry was being solidified. MTV was also the major influence on the growth of music videos during the 1980s.
HBO also had a 30-minute program of music videos called Video Jukebox, that first aired around the time of MTV's launch and lasted until late 1986. Also around this time, HBO, as well as other premium channels such as Cinemax, Showtime and The Movie Channel, occasionally played one or a few music videos between movies.
SuperStation WTBS launched Night Tracks on June 3, 1983, with up to 14 hours of music video airplay each late night weekend by 1985. Its most noticeable difference was that black artists received airplay that MTV initially ignored. The program ran until the end of May 1992.
A few markets also launched music-only channels including Las Vegas' KVMY (channel 21), which debuted in the summer of 1984 as KRLR-TV and branded as "Vusic 21". The first video played on that channel was "Video Killed the Radio Star", following in the footsteps of MTV.
Shortly after TBS began Night Tracks, NBC launched a music video program called Friday Night Videos, which was considered network television's answer to MTV. Later renamed simply Friday Night, the program ran from 1983 to 2002. ABC's contribution to the music video program genre in 1984, ABC Rocks, was far less successful, lasting only a year.
TBS founder Ted Turner started the Cable Music Channel in 1984, designed to play a broader mix of music videos than MTV's rock format allowed. But after one month as a money-losing venture, Turner sold it to MTV, who redeveloped the channel into VH1.
Shortly after its launch, The Disney Channel aired a program called D-TV, a play on the MTV acronym. The program used music cuts, both from current and past artists. Instead of music videos, the program used clips of various vintage Disney cartoons and animated films to go with the songs. The program aired in multiple formats, sometimes between shows, sometimes as its own program, and other times as one-off specials. The specials tended to air both on The Disney Channel and NBC. The program aired at various times between 1984 and 1999. In 2009, Disney Channel revived the D-TV concept with a new series of short-form segments called Re-Micks.
MTV has edited a number of music videos to remove references to drugs, sex, violence, weapons, racism, homophobia, and/or advertising. Many music videos aired on the channel were either censored, moved to late-night rotation, or banned entirely from the channel.
In the 1980s, parent media watchdog groups such as the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) criticized MTV over certain music videos that were claimed to have explicit imagery of satanism. As a result, MTV developed a strict policy on refusal to air videos that may depict Satanism or anti-religious themes. This policy led MTV to ban music videos such as "Jesus Christ Pose" by Soundgarden in 1991 and "Megalomaniac" by Incubus in 2004; however, the controversial band Marilyn Manson was among the most popular rock bands on MTV during the late 1990s and early 2000s.
On September 28, 2016, on an AfterBuzz TV live stream, Scout Durwood said that MTV had a "no appropriation policy" that forbid her from wearing her hair in cornrows in an episode of Mary + Jane. She said, "I wanted to cornrow my hair, and they were like, 'That's racist.'"
Andrew Dice Clay
During the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards ceremony, comedian Andrew Dice Clay did his usual "adult nursery rhymes" routine (which he had done in his stand-up acts), after which the network executives imposed a lifetime ban. Billy Idol's music video for the song "Cradle of Love" originally had scenes from Clay's film The Adventures of Ford Fairlane when it was originally aired; scenes from the film were later excised. During the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards, Clay was in attendance where he confirmed that the channel lifted the ban.
Beavis and Butt-head
In the wake of controversy that involved a child burning down his house after allegedly watching Beavis and Butt-head, MTV moved the show from its original 7 p.m. time slot to an 11 p.m. time slot. Also, Beavis' tendency to flick a lighter and yell "fire" was removed from new episodes, and controversial scenes were removed from existing episodes before their rebroadcast. Some extensive edits were noted by series creator Mike Judge after compiling his Collection DVDs, saying that "some of those episodes may not even exist actually in their original form."
Dude, This Sucks
A pilot for a show called Dude, This Sucks was canceled after teens attending a taping at the Snow Summit Ski Resort in January 2001 were sprayed with liquidized fecal matter by a group known as "The Shower Rangers". The teens later sued, with MTV later apologizing and ordering the segment's removal.
Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show
After Viacom's purchase of CBS, MTV was selected to produce the Super Bowl XXXV halftime show in 2001, airing on CBS and featuring Britney Spears, NSYNC, and Aerosmith. Due to its success, MTV was invited back to produce another halftime show in 2004; this sparked a nationwide debate and controversy that drastically changed Super Bowl halftime shows, MTV's programming, and radio censorship.
When CBS aired Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004, MTV was again chosen to produce the halftime show, with performances by such artists as Nelly, P. Diddy, Janet Jackson, and Justin Timberlake. The show became controversial, however, after Timberlake tore off part of Jackson's outfit while performing "Rock Your Body" with her, revealing her right breast. All involved parties apologized for the incident, and Timberlake referred to the incident as a "wardrobe malfunction".
Michael Powell, former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, ordered an investigation the day after broadcast. In the weeks following the halftime show, MTV censored much of its programming. Several music videos, including "This Love" and "I Miss You", were edited for sexual content. In September 2004, the FCC ruled that the halftime show was indecent and fined CBS $550,000. The FCC upheld it in 2006, but federal judges reversed the fine in 2008.
Timberlake and Jackson's controversial event gave way to a "wave of self-censorship on American television unrivaled since the McCarthy era". After the sudden event, names surfaced such as nipplegate, Janet moment, and boobgate, and this spread politically, furthering the discussion into the 2004 presidential election surrounding "moral values" and "media decency".
The Christian right organization American Family Association has also criticized MTV from perceptions of negative moral influence, describing MTV as promoting a "pro-sex, anti-family, pro-choice, drug culture".
In 2005, the Parents Television Council (PTC) released a study titled "MTV Smut Peddlers", which sought to expose excessive sexual, profane, and violent content on the channel, based on MTV's spring break programming from 2004. Jeanette Kedas, an MTV network executive, called the PTC report "unfair and inaccurate" and "underestimating young people's intellect and level of sophistication", while L. Brent Bozell III, then-president of the PTC, stated: "the incessant sleaze on MTV presents the most compelling case yet for consumer cable choice", referring to the practice of pay television companies to allow consumers to pay for channels à la carte.
In April 2008, PTC released The Rap on Rap, a study covering hip-hop and R&B music videos rotated on programs 106 & Park and Rap City, both shown on BET, and Sucker Free on MTV. PTC urged advertisers to withdraw sponsorship of those programs, whose videos PTC stated targeted children and teenagers containing adult content.
MTV received significant criticism from Italian American organizations for Jersey Shore, which premiered in 2009. The controversy was due in large part to the manner in which MTV marketed the show, as it liberally used the word "guido" to describe the cast members. The word "guido" is generally regarded as an ethnic slur when referring to Italians and Italian Americans. One promotion stated that the show was to follow, "eight of the hottest, tannest, craziest Guidos," while yet another advertisement stated, "Jersey Shore exposes one of the tri-state area's most misunderstood species ... the GUIDO. Yes, they really do exist! Our Guidos and Guidettes will move into the ultimate beach house rental and indulge in everything the Seaside Heights, New Jersey scene has to offer."
Prior to the series debut, Unico National formally requested that MTV cancel the show. In a formal letter, the company called the show a "direct, deliberate and disgraceful attack on Italian Americans." Unico National President Andre DiMino said in a statement, "MTV has festooned the 'bordello-like' house set with Italian flags and red, white and green maps of New Jersey while every other cutaway shot is of Italian signs and symbols. They are blatantly as well as subliminally bashing Italian Americans with every technique possible." Around this time, other Italian organizations joined the fight, including the NIAF and the Order Sons of Italy in America.
MTV responded by issuing a press release which stated in part, "The Italian American cast takes pride in their ethnicity. We understand that this show is not intended for every audience and depicts just one aspect of youth culture." Following the calls for the show's removal, several sponsors requested that their ads not be aired during the show. These sponsors included Dell, Domino's Pizza, and American Family Insurance. Despite the loss of certain advertisers, MTV did not cancel the show. Moreover, the show saw its audience increase from its premiere in 2009, and continued to place as MTV's top-rated programs during Jersey Shore's six-season run, ending in 2012.
Resolutions for White Guys
In December 2016, MTV online published a social justice-oriented New Year's resolution-themed video directed towards white men. The video caused widespread outrage online, including video responses from well-known online personas, and was deleted from MTV's YouTube channel. The video was then reuploaded to their channel, with MTV claiming the new video contained "updated graphical elements". The new video quickly received over 10,000 dislikes and fewer than 100 likes from only 20,000 views, and MTV deleted the video for a second time.