MTV Gives War A Chance

MTV has gone to war. Somewhere between “Club MTV” and “Yo! MTV Raps,” the musicvideo channel’s news division is finding time for in-depth coverage of the Persian Gulf war.

MTV News is working in conjunction with Globalvision, producers of the weekly public tv newsmagazine show “South Africa Now” and the documentary “The Making Of Give Peace A Chance,” to produce four-to five-minute news pieces on the war.

In the first segment, aired last week, MTV reported on a Scholastic Magazine/Lou Harris poll showing a wide gender and race gap in young people’s opinions of the war. Globalvision had obtained the report for MTV before its official release. A piece currently is in the works examining music industry response to the war.

“There are a lot of issues related to the war that are of interest to the MTV audience that aren’t being addressed by the evening newscasts,” says Globalvision honcho Danny Schechter. “There’s a part of the MTV audience that is in the gulf right now, and it’s the MTV audience that will face a draft if the war goes on.”

Although MTV News occasionally has delved into controversy before – reporting on racism in rock or environmental issues – the division generally leans to rock star profiles and featurey coverage of events like the cable web’s “Spring Break” specials.

“Basically, most of what we’ve been doing since the war broke out is man-in-the-street type pieces,” says MTV News topper Linda Corradina. “And we felt it was time we started breaking news on the war. We needed people with contacts at the Pentagon and in the gulf who could deliver that kind of material.”

Schechter, a veteran “20/20” producer, had covered the Vietnam War for Boston AOR station WBCN under the moniker “Danny Schechter, The News Dissector.” He was the first radio commentator awarded a Nieman Fellowship.

Expanded MTV coverage of the war may in part be a catalyst to a reinstate MTV’s half-hour nightly newscast, which was pinkslipped a year ago, according to MTV sources.

When the newscast was canceled last year, MTV execs cited high costs and low ratings. But some MTV insiders thought the newscast got the ax because its irreverence rankled music industry bigshots. When MTV wouldn’t play a controversial Neil Young video that slagged corporate sponsorship of rock acts, MTV News did a story about it and showed the video. When a member of Skid Row, a hard rock group that was fast becoming an MTV staple, got into a violent altercation with a fan at a concert, MTV News showed video a fan had shot of the melee.

Corradina declines to discuss the return of the nightly newscast. But she stresses, “This is the time to beef up our coverage.”

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