In the 1980s, late music icon David Bowie called out MTV for a lack of prime rotation content featuring Black artists in a resurfaced clip that gained renewed interest.
The racial bias in the music industry was evident at the height of MTV's popularity throughout the 1980s. The cable channel was accused of deliberately not playing music videos from Black artists except late at night, despite the popularity of Black artists like Michael Jackson, Prince or Run-DMC.
In the 1983 interview Bowie asked MTV host Mark Goodman:
“I’m just floored by the fact that there are so few Black artists featured [on MTV]. Why is that?”
Goodman fumbled over his response, saying the network was trying to "move in that direction."
"We want to play artists that seem to be doing music that fits into what we want to play for MTV."
"The company's thinking in terms of narrowcasting."
You can watch the 1983 MTV interview, here.
Bowie added few Black artists were "predominantly featured throughout the day," and were instead getting air time in the early morning hours between 2:30 a.m. and 6 a.m. when viewership was extremely low.
Though Bowie did admit the network was making efforts to improve the situation, he said it was a "slow process."
Bowie mentioned the one "Black station"–presumably, BET–he kept coming across seemed to have “a lot of Black artists making very good videos that I’m surprised aren’t used on MTV.”
NBA player-turned social media progressive commentator Rex Chapman posted the video—misidentifying it as being from 1993—with a recent Meet the Press interview with New York TimesMagazine staff writer, Nicole Hannah-Jones, in which the topic of race education was discussed.
Chapman linked that interview to the Bowie/Goodman MTV interview to illustrate not much has changed nearly 30 years later.
The tweet caught the attention of rapper Ice T, who gave Bowie respect for speaking out when few were.
The rapper and actor tweeted:
"A lotta people may NOT know that David Bowie put MTV on blast back in the day for NOT playin Black artists..."
"He side stepped the double talk…"
"Bowie was a REAL ONE."
Others agreed and weighed in with their own observations.
Bowie's record sales during his lifetime were estimated at over 100 million records worldwide, making him one of the best-selling music artists of all time.
The music industry suffered a huge loss when the rock star succumbed to liver cancer on January 10, 2016. He had been diagnosed with the disease 18 months prior to his death but kept it private from the public.
He was 69 when he died, but his legacy as a musical genius lives on.