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August 1, 1981: The Launch of MTV Kills The Radio Star

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On August 1, 1981, MTV launched to the world with colorful and lively television music videos. Its original purpose was to be "music television," playing music videos all week, at all hours. The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star” was the first music video to air on the new cable television channel.

From that point onwards, and through the 1980s, MTV was instrumental in promoting the careers of performers such as Madonna, Michael Jackson, Prince and Duran Duran and sparked the Second British Invasion. Additionally, Michael Jackson's “Billie Jean” opened up the door for other artists of color to be featured on MTV.

Promoters of the 1983 film Flashdance included musical segments from the movie and supplied them to MTV to include in their music videos-thus marrying MTV to the movie industry. Culturally, MTV developed a reputation for pushing boundaries and taste; dancing and clothing styles became increasingly more daring under its influence.

The channel successfully introduced reality television to viewers in 1992 with The Real World, followed by shows like The Osbournes, Jersey Shore, My Super Sweet 16 and 16 and Pregnant. MTV also debuted animated series including Beavis and Butthead and Daria, as well as game shows and public service campaigns on topics such as safe sex.

MTV Networks was renamed Viacom Media Networks in 2011 and gradually phased out all its music content, dropping it completely around the mid-2000s. Since these changes have taken root, MTV's musical significance has become more limited, largely confined today to late night and to one show, Total Request Live.

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