It was a seminal moment in the history of popular culture. On 1 August 1981, MTV launched in America with the simple words: "Ladies and Gentlemen... Rock and Roll." The phrase was followed by a montage of the Apollo 11 Moon landings. While the pictures of Neil Armstrong bounding across the lunar landscape conveyed the channel's imperialistic ambitions, its first video, played seconds later, impressed its disdain of subtlety. It was Video Killed the Radio Star, by The Buggles.
And so with this unique blend of brash, rapid-fire imagery and cutting edge rock 'n' roll, the channel went on to revolutionise the way the world saw music. MTV popularised music videos at a time when people's attention spans were waning, the angry licks of its theme tune vibrating through sitting rooms worldwide. The channel first appeared in Britain in 1987, through the launch of MTV Europe. Blighty's passion for music video was thus ignited.
But it was not to last forever. On Wednesday, the channel's knuckles were rapped after MTV Networks Europe was slapped with a £255,000 fine by the media regulator Ofcom. Its crime? Airing "offensive" language which prompted a spate of viewer complaints. One singularly rude text message broadcast on an MTV channel asked the searching question: "What is a spunkbelly?" Mary Whitehouse would be spinning in her grave.
In fact, such crass gaffes are only a snapshot of MTV's hand slipping from the pulse of the global consciousness. Ofcom's reprimand accompanies a slump in popularity among viewers. The company's channels, which include MTV2 (for lovers of "alternative rock"), and MTV Base (for R'n'B fans) have haemorrhaged audiences between 2003 and this year, the biggest loss being among its core audience, the highly sought-after 16- to 24-year-old males.
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