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. 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.

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]

The Parents Television Council is also concerned about what messages are being communicated to young viewers through the lens and language of the reality television played on MTV. The finding suggests a horribly unrealistic portrayal of "reality" with harsh, demeaning and sexualized dialogue.[5] While women were usually the receiver of the slandering language, they also were more likely than men to be negative to themselves and to other women.

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.The Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) was first formed in 1984 around the collective outrage of four women known for their ties to Washington political life. All women had personal ties with profane music as they did not want their children to be exposed to it.[6] MTV has developed a strict policy on refusal to air videos that may depict devil worship or anti-religious bigotry.[7] This led MTV to ban the videos for "Jesus Christ Pose" by Soundgarden[8] and "Megalomaniac" by Incubus.[9]

Usually, all racial slurs are censored on MTV music videos[10] and programming.[11] In recent years, MTV has emphasized racial tolerance and diversity awareness for people of all races and creeds.[12] But in the 1980s it was hard to see African Americans on MTV. Viewers began to take notice of the lack of ethnic diversity in American artists that received airtime, as did artists such as David Bowie and the late Rick James. James had his "Super Freak" video rejected by MTV, and pushed for two years for more black videos to be shown on the network.[13]

When MTV executives were questioned they simply stated that MTV was a rock music channel, and there were very few African Americans in that music scene.[14] Said Buzz Brindle, who at the time was the MTV director of music programming, "It was difficult for MTV to find African-American artists whose music fit the channel's format that leaned toward rock at the outset." [13]

In 1983 after some convincing, MTV executives agreed to air Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" which became a record breaking hit and paved the way for many other black artists to have their music videos played on MTV. This also changed MTV from not only being a rock music channel, but accepting pop into its music horizons.[15]

Censored music videos[edit]

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.[7]

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.[9] Madonna's "Erotica" was aired on MTV only after midnight because of its sexual and dark scenes. In an interview, Madonna said she agreed with MTV's attitude about the video: “I know that the themes I'm exploring in the video are not for children, so I understand that they can't play it earlier.” The video "Pumped up Kicks" was censored, removing "gun" and "bullet" from the song's chorus. Also, the video for "Smack My Bitch Up" by The Prodigy was initially given late-night rotation on MTV's 120 Minutes due to a fistfight, sexual scenes and allegedly misogynistic language in the lyrics[16] but was removed from rotation after one week, a decision supported by the feminist group National Organization for Women.[17] The song "Étienne" by Guesch Patti was moved to late-night rotation in MTV Europe due to a striptease scene.[18] The video "Prison Sex" by Tool was shown only on MTV's former rock-oriented digital cable channel MTVX due to sexual and violent content,[19] but went on to be nominated for an MTV Video Music Award in 1995 for Best Special Effects.[20] 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.[21] Only MTV2 would play the Public Enemy video "Gotta Give the Peeps What They Need" because it contained a line "free Mumia."[22][23]

Banned music videos[edit]

From MTV in the United States[edit]

From MTV in Europe[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. Retrieved 2006-04-16. 
  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. ^ "REALITY ON MTV: Gender Portrayals on MTV Reality Programming". www.parentstv.org. Retrieved 2015-10-07. 
  6. ^ "Parental Advisory Forever: An Oral History of the PMRC's War on Dirty Lyrics". Retrieved 10/12/15.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  7. ^ a b MTV
  8. ^ a b Prato, Greg. "Jesus Christ Pose" review. Allmusic
  9. ^ a b Cave, Damien (February 23, 2004). "MTV Under Attack by FCC". Rolling Stone. 
  10. ^ 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).
  11. ^ Making the Band 2 Episode Summaries
  12. ^ MTV.com - think - Discrimination -> Racism
  13. ^ a b Company, Johnson Publishing (2006-10-09). Jet. Johnson Publishing Company. 
  14. ^ "MTV and Black Music: A Rocky History". About.com News & Issues. Retrieved 2015-10-07. 
  15. ^ "MTV and Black Music: A Rocky History". About.com News & Issues. Retrieved 2015-10-12. 
  16. ^ "Prodigy Video To Air On MTV As Controversy Continues". MTV News. 1997-12-04. Retrieved 2008-09-01. 
  17. ^ MTV Explains Decision To Pull Prodigy
  18. ^ "La Discothèque du 20è siècle", 1988, Polygram Direct, p. 14
  19. ^ The Tool Page: Prison Sex Video
  20. ^ The Tool page: Circus magazine, January, 1997
  21. ^ Rotter, Jeffrey (May 9, 2004). "Jay-Z Wants to Kill Himself". The New York Times. Retrieved May 30, 2010. 
  22. ^ Serpick, Evan (November 5, 2002). "Play It Again". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved May 30, 2010. 
  23. ^ "Chuck D Speaks About MTV and Fighting the Power". September 27, 2002. Archived from the original on August 5, 2004. 
  24. ^ The Realms of Deth - Other Megadeth Music Videos
  25. ^ "Youtube Comments: The Faint". Retrieved 2009-07-08. 
  26. ^ McLernon, Matt (2003-03-31). "MTV hurts war effort with censorship". DailyOrange.com. The Daily Orange. Retrieved 2007-05-28. 
  27. ^ Rivadavia, Eduardo. ""Arise" - Overview". Allmusic. Retrieved 2007-08-03. 
  28. ^ Prato, Greg. "Come Out and Play" review. Allmusic: 1999
  29. ^ Nuzum 2001, p. 95
  30. ^ Kulkarni, Dhananjay. Madonna - Controversies continued... Buzzle.com: May 14, 2004
  31. ^ 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. 
  32. ^ http://globalgrind.com/channel/music/content/1892215/censored-30-seconds-to-mars-quothurricanequotvideo/
  33. ^ The Realms of Deth - Megadeth Videography - Rusted Pieces
  34. ^ a b Chonin, Neva (2001-03-23). "Madonna's No 'Pussy Cat': MTV bans her latest video, again". San Francisco Chronicle. 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. 
  35. ^ Gundersen, Edna (2003-08-07). "Primus exerts 'Animal' magnetism". USA Today. 
  36. ^ http://www.chacha.com/question/why-was-blink%26%2345%3B182's-video-m%26m's-banned-from-mtv
  37. ^ The Realms of Deth - Other Megadeth Music Videos
  38. ^ Nuzum 2001, p. 92
  39. ^ Bitch Banned From MTV
  40. ^ M.I.A., No Loss For Words
  41. ^ MetalSucks – Suicide Silence, "The Price of Beauty"
  42. ^ http://www.knaclive.com/article.asp?ArticleID=7149
  43. ^ "Cardigan's Crash video banned". NME. September 8, 1998. Retrieved February 27, 2011. 

Further reading[edit]