Censorship on MTV

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Censorship on MTV has been the subject of debate for years. MTV, the first and most popular music television network in the U.S., has come under criticism for being too politically correct and sensitive, censoring too much of their programming. MTV altered or removed shows from the channel's schedule and music videos were censored, moved to late-night rotation, or banned entirely from the channel.

Political correctness[edit]

MTV came under criticism for being too politically correct and sensitive when it came to censorship.[citation needed] This was most prevalent in the eventual decline of the hit show Jackass. The creators of Jackass often felt that MTV's producers did not let the show run its free course due to the excessive restraints placed on the Jackass team.[citation needed]

MTV's influence also affected its famous animated program, Beavis and Butt-head. In the wake of controversy that followed a child burning down his house after allegedly watching the show, "producers moved the show from its original 7 p.m. time slot to a late-night, 11 p.m. slot. Also, Beavis' tendency to flick a lighter and scream the word "fire" was removed from new episodes, and controversial scenes were removed from existing episodes before rebroadcast.[1] Some of the edits were so extensive that when series creator Mike Judge compiled his Collection DVDs he found out that "some of those episodes may not even exist actually in their original form".[2]

The Parents Television Council has argued that much of the censored material on MTV is easily discernible because of the context in which it is presented.[3][4]

Religion and race[edit]

In the 1980s, parent-media watchdog groups such as the PMRC criticized MTV over certain music videos that were claimed to have explicit imagery of Satanism. MTV has developed a strict policy on refusal to air videos that may depict devil worship or anti-religious bigotry.[5] This led MTV to ban the videos for "Jesus Christ Pose" by Soundgarden[6] and "Megalomaniac" by Incubus.[7]

Usually, all racial slurs are censored on MTV music videos[8] and programming.[9] MTV has emphasized racial tolerance and diversity awareness for people of all races and creeds.[10]

Censored music videos[edit]

MTV refused to air the music video Bombs by Faithless due to its anti-war message.[11] MTV has also heavily edited a number of music videos to remove references in lyrics to drugs,[12] sex, nudity, violence, weapons, racism, homophobia, or advertising, and completely edits out the swearwords.[13] Examples of such edits have included:

  • In the song "Beautiful Girls" by Sean Kingston, the word "suicidal" was altered to "in denial".[14]
  • In Michael Jackson's single "They Don't Care About Us", MTV has replaced the words "Jew me" and "kike me" with "do me" and "strike me" in the line "Jew me, sue me... kick me, kike me; don't you black or white me".[15] Jackson argued that the song used the words to describe prejudice and that it was poor judgment to select Jewish people as explanatory words.[16]
  • "This Love" by Maroon 5 had the words "coming" and "sinking" muted out due to possible sexual connotations.[17]
  • "Pumped Up Kicks" by Foster the People was edited to remove references to the song's subject daring people to "outrun my gun" and to run "faster than my bullet",[18] which was misconstrued by some who had not heard the song previously as editing a profanity out rather than a weapons reference.

Videos moved to late-night or obscure rotation[edit]

To deal with criticism over risque content in certain videos, MTV moved certain videos to late-night rotation in censored format. Such videos included "If I Could Turn Back Time" by Cher and "Baby Got Back" by Sir Mix-a-Lot.[5]

The song "Étienne" by Guesch Patti was moved to late-night rotation in MTV Europe in 1987 due to a striptease scene.[19]

"Smack My Bitch Up" by The Prodigy was initially given late-night rotation on MTV's 120 Minutes on December 7, 1997 due to a fistfight, sexual scenes and allegedly misogynistic language in the lyrics[20] but was removed from rotation after around two weeks, a decision supported by the feminist group National Organization for Women.[21][22] In 2002, MTV2 showed this video in its special Most Controversial Videos.[23]

In 2002, only MTV2 would play the Public Enemy video "Gotta Give the Peeps What They Need", because it contained "free Mumia" in the lyrics.[24][25]

In February 2004, following the controversial Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show in which performer Justin Timberlake caused the exposure of a breast of co-performer Janet Jackson, MTV made several efforts to limit daytime rotation of music videos that it felt had too much sexual content to be shown following the controversy. Such videos included "This Love" by Maroon 5, "Splash Waterfalls" by Ludacris, "The Jump Off" by Lil' Kim, "Toxic" by Britney Spears, "I Miss You" by Blink-182, "Salt Shaker" by Ying Yang Twins, and "Hotel" by Cassidy. Additionally, the video for "Megalomaniac" by Incubus was pushed back not because of sexual content but because of depictions of German leader Adolf Hitler and people drinking oil.[7]

Also in 2004, alleged glorification of gun violence led MTV to show an edited version of the video "99 Problems" by Jay-Z only between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.[26]

Banned music videos[edit]

From MTV in the United States[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Censorship & Scandals: Beavis & Butt-head
  2. ^ Mike Judge (2005). Beavis and Butt-head: The Mike Judge Collection Volume 1 Taint to Greatness the Journey of Beavis and Butt-head (Part 1) (DVD). 
  3. ^ "I Want My Foul TV" (Press release). Parents Television Council. 2005-08-11. Archived from the original on June 14, 2006. 
  4. ^ Kuhn, Katherine (2007-09-07). "So You Think You Can Rate a TV Show? - "The Hills"". Parents Television Council. Archived from the original on 2007-10-03. Retrieved 2007-09-14. 
  5. ^ a b MTV
  6. ^ a b Prato, Greg. "Jesus Christ Pose" review. Allmusic
  7. ^ a b Cave, Damien (February 23, 2004). "MTV Under Attack by FCC". Rolling Stone. 
  8. ^ Williams 2005, pp. 6, 8 The report mentioned that "nigga" was censored out of the videos "Freak-a-Leek" by Petey Pablo (p. 6) and "My Band" by D12. (p. 8).
  9. ^ Making the Band 2 Episode Summaries Archived February 3, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  10. ^ MTV.com - think - Discrimination -> Racism Archived September 13, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  11. ^ Corporate censorship: Excluded from MTV
  12. ^ Williams 2005, p. 8 In this case, a reference to crack cocaine was removed from the video for "My Band" by D12.
  13. ^ Nuzum 2001, pp. 91–92
  14. ^ Group, Vibe Media (November 2007). "20 Questions". Vibe. p. 144 
  15. ^ Michael Jackson videography on JacksonAction.com
  16. ^ "ADL Welcomes Michael Jackson's Decision to Remove Anti-Semitic Lyrics from Song" (Press release). Anti-Defamation League. 1995-06-22. Retrieved 2007-06-23. 
  17. ^ Williams 2005, p. 7
  18. ^ Richard Huff (28 June 2011). "MTVU censors Foster the People's music video hit 'Pumped Up Kicks'". NY Daily News. Archived from the original on June 14, 2012. 
  19. ^ "La Discothèque du 20è siècle", 1988, Polygram Direct, p. 14
  20. ^ "Prodigy Video To Air On MTV As Controversy Continues". MTV News. 1997-12-04. Archived from the original on August 22, 2001. Retrieved 2008-09-01. 
  21. ^ "MTV Explains Decision To Pull Prodigy". MTV News. December 22, 1997. Archived from the original on September 20, 2003. Retrieved September 1, 2008. 
  22. ^ "'Bitch' banned from MTV". Yahoo Music. December 23, 1997. Archived from the original on August 29, 2012. 
  23. ^ "MTV's Most Controversial Videos". MTV. Archived from the original on August 14, 2003. 
  24. ^ Serpick, Evan (November 5, 2002). "Play It Again; Is MTV getting too gross?". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on December 2, 2002. Retrieved May 30, 2010. 
  25. ^ "Chuck D Speaks About MTV and Fighting the Power". September 27, 2002. Archived from the original on August 5, 2004. 
  26. ^ Rotter, Jeffrey (May 9, 2004). "Jay-Z Wants to Kill Himself". The New York Times. Archived from the original on July 13, 2014. 
  27. ^ The Realms of Deth - Other Megadeth Music Videos
  28. ^ McLernon, Matt (2003-03-31). "MTV hurts war effort with censorship". DailyOrange.com. The Daily Orange. Retrieved 2007-05-28. 
  29. ^ Rivadavia, Eduardo. ""Arise" - Overview". Allmusic. Retrieved 2007-08-03. 
  30. ^ Prato, Greg. "Come Out and Play" review. Allmusic: 1999
  31. ^ Nuzum 2001, p. 95
  32. ^ Kulkarni, Dhananjay. Madonna - Controversies continued... Buzzle.com: May 14, 2004
  33. ^ Liu, Marian (2007-05-14). "Mistah F.A.B. walks the walk". San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved 2007-05-26. MTV asked for edit after edit on the video, and eventually banned it. Columbia Pictures, which owns the "Ghostbusters" franchise, demanded the video be pulled because it still owned the rights to the likeness of the "Ghostbusters" car and logo, which were altered but used in the video. 
  34. ^ The Realms of Deth - Megadeth Videography - Rusted Pieces
  35. ^ a b Chonin, Neva (2001-03-23). "Madonna's No 'Pussy Cat': MTV bans her latest video, again". San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on January 26, 2004. Retrieved 2007-05-26. "What It Feels Like For a Girl" was rejected for heavy rotation by MTV and its affiliate VH1. Too violent, they say. This, from a corporation that makes a mint off marketing gangsta culture to the suburban masses. 
  36. ^ Gundersen, Edna (2003-08-07). "Primus exerts 'Animal' magnetism". USA Today. 
  37. ^ The Realms of Deth - Other Megadeth Music Videos
  38. ^ Nuzum 2001, p. 92
  39. ^ M.I.A., No Loss For Words
  40. ^ MetalSucks – Suicide Silence, "The Price of Beauty"
  41. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-13. Retrieved 2009-09-07. 
  42. ^ "Cardigan's Crash video banned". NME. September 8, 1998. Retrieved February 27, 2011. 

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