MTV Turns 30: Watch The First Broadcast

30 years ago today, on Aug. 1, 1981, a new cable network called MTV kicked off its broadcasting life, debuting with a perfectly appropriate pop song called “Video Killed the Radio Star”. Yes, believe it or not, the mess of scum culture and ADD-encouraging programming that now exists on your cable dial once began as a music video network with grand intentions and promising vision. 30 years later, we look back on what was – and what could’ve been – with nostalgic wonder.

After its debut, MTV became a pop culture sensation, impacting and uniting TV and the music industry. Debut video jockey Mark Goodman told viewers that “you’ll never look at music the same way again,” and for a while, he was right; music and visual technology merged, as both were entering phases of rapid evolution and innovation, and the results were amazing. The use of video as a visual accompaniment to hit music kicked off an entirely new perspective on music consumption, with artists breaking sound boundaries with special effects-laden videos like Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” video or Dire Straits’ “Money For Nothing”. Icons were formed based on visual stimuli, making Madonna’s cone boobs or Michael Jackson’s moonwalk as iconic as the music itself.

Of course, that’s all behind us now, leaving in its place a giddily enabling documentation of social bottom-feeding and cultural rot. Teenage idiots with babies are national celebrities, vying for the spotlight against spoiled demon children planning their birthday parties and appalling human-caricatures focused only on spray-tans, the gym and racking up STDs. The day of the music video on MTV is dead, relegated to a weekly midnight broadcast at best.

Step into a time machine to an era when things weren’t quite so gross over at MTV. Check out the first hour of MTV’s inaugural broadcast below, in six parts.


Ahh, the good old days. None of this makes any sense to Snooki, I’m sure.