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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 August 2006, 07:42 GMT 08:42 UK
MTV's 25 years of non-stop hits
Michael Jackson with friends in the Thriller video
Jackson's 14-minute Thriller video became an MTV landmark
MTV, the world's first 24-hour rolling music channel, celebrates its 25th birthday this week.

These days, of course, MTV is less of a TV station than an international conglomerate, broadcasting to 1.3 billion people in 179 countries via 78 different channels.

Its moves into original programming has led to such hits as Beavis and Butt-head, The Osbournes and Jackass, while its movie arm has produced Oscar-nominated titles like Murderball and Hustle and Flow.

Launched on 1 August 1981, the fledgling TV channel captured the public imagination with pop videos "on demand", competitions and enthusiastic "VJs" (video jockeys) who became almost as famous as the stars they introduced.

Groundbreaking moments in its early years included the world premiere of Michael Jackson's Thriller video, the Live Aid concerts in 1985 and the birth of the MTV Video Music Awards.

'Strong stomach'

The launch of MTV Europe in 1987 saw the station extend its influence outside the US for the first time.

HAVE YOUR SAY
I have loved MTV since I first got cable in 1997
Jennifer, Netherlands

It also saw a new influx of on-screen presenters, among them Davina McCall - who was talent-spotted while working for the company as a receptionist.

"In MTV you could start in the kitchen and end up a presenter - it was that kind of place," the Big Brother host said.

BBC Radio 1 DJ Edith Bowman was another wannabe who got her big break through the channel after it launched MTV UK in 1997.

Dire Straits
Dire Straits namechecked MTV in their 1985 song Money for Nothing
To be a VJ, she recalled, required "a strong stomach, originality and confidence".

"What was lovely about MTV was that there was no stereotypical VJ," added McCall.

"Every one was different because it was based around your taste in music."

As the network expanded, however, the reliance on back-to-back videos decreased in line with the growth of non-music programming.

Political conscience

With specialised spin-off channels focusing on individual music genres, the main network moved into stunt shows like Jackass and Punk'd, animated cartoons and The Real World - a reality series that predated Big Brother by seven years.

The Osbournes made its TV debut in 2002, with Pimp My Ride - a show devoted to the extravagant retooling of motor cars - following two years later.

Britney Spears
Britney Spears danced with a snake at the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards
The station also developed a political conscience, mobilising young voters with such memorable slogans as "Rock the Vote" and "Choose or Lose".

Its diversification into other areas can be attributed in part to the rise of the internet, which provided a rival outlet for showcasing, packaging and distributing music to the so-called "MTV generation".

But it can also be seen as a response to the proliferation of competing music channels, many of which - such as VH1 - were produced by the same company.

Given the way music television has evolved in the 25 years since the channel was launched, that famous Sting refrain from the Dire Straits song Money for Nothing - "I want my MTV" - now seems a nostalgic anachronism.

That the channel has survived and flourished, however, is a testament to its canny understanding of popular trends and the global audience.


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