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Changing the Channel at MTV

MTV is arguably one of the biggest influences on teens these days, with cult hits like “Newlyweds” and the long-running staples like “The Real World” gracing the airwaves 24/7. The recent naming of Judy McGrath as chair of MTV networks worldwide (which includes over 95 channels) got me thinking about the role tv plays in shaping the likes, dislikes and general opinions of entire generations.

MTV is arguably one of the biggest influences on teens these days, with cult hits like “Newlyweds” and the long-running staples like “The Real World” gracing the airwaves 24/7. The recent naming of Judy McGrath as chair of MTV networks worldwide (which includes over 95 channels) got me thinking about the role tv plays in shaping the likes, dislikes and general opinions of entire generations.

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In the early 1990’s, MTV began its ‘Choose or Lose’ campaign coverage, working to get younger people interested in politics. Voter registration drives followed, and music once again became very political as concerts were given to support particular candidates. Since then, campaign coverage has continued and actual news is still mentioned from time to time (10 to the hour, every hour) on MTV. But there are more and more shows about the sexiest celebrities, parties, and dating than ever before. Not exactly the stuff of revolutions.

With a new hand at the helm, I’m really curious to see where the MTV networks as a whole will be taken. Will there be more controversial shows, like Comedy Central’s “The Chapelle Show”? Or more self-censorship, an approach Viacom is pushing on some of its other networks since the Super Bowl ‘wardrobe malfunction’ (CBS anyone?).

If you were able to step into McGrath’s new shoes, what would you do? What would you want your children to watch? Can a brand as strong as MTV, with its pop-culture draw, actually continue to affect the political and general world views of its fans, or have shows like “Newlyweds” and “Wanna Come In?” discredited the network?

My thought is that such unintelligent shows discuss rather silly topics, suggesting that viewers copy the celebrities featured on these silly shows, and therefore become silly and unimpressive themselves. Not quite the best way to influence a voting public, the same public that was initially turned on to the more serious side of life through exactly this network some ten years ago.

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