I'm old enough to remember that exactly 30 years ago today something of great cultural significance happened: I watched a song on my TV for the very first time. Yes, you read that correctly: I watched a song on TV.
MTV was born on this day three decades ago and the music industry would never be the same. Music videos would soon go on to become elaborate productions that rivaled blockbuster films in their innovation. Michael Jackson's Billie Jean was one of many iconic hits that became better recognized for the video than the song itself. From a communications standpoint, a new, powerful channel was now available for brands, causes, even politicians.
A rather obscure Democratic governor from Arkansas used this channel's reach to target young voters. Bill Clinton did not win the White House because of MTV, but the network's “Rock the Vote” initiative helped register 350,000 young people, while leading more than 2 million new young voters to the polls. (I don't have the numbers, but I'm fairly confident George H. W. Bush wasn't the choice on most of those ballots.)
In my humble opinion, MTV has not been itself for quite a while. Does it even show music videos now? It seems to be The Jersey Shore all day, every day. I've never watched the show, but I can't deny its cachet, albeit begrudgingly. It's helping keep MTV relevant.
Today, however, I wish to honor the MTV that I once knew and loved, especially when Martha Quinn was VJ-ing. We all marvel at how social media has changed the art of communications. Thirty years ago today, a new network was born that had a similarly powerful impact on so many levels. It changed the world, including our world of communications. While I'm not thrilled with what it has become, I still respect the impact it had and still has. Happy Birthday MTV.
Gideon Fidelzeid is the managing editor of PRWeek. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.