David Bowie: How singer slammed MTV for ‘lack of black artists’ after ‘white fear’ comment

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David Bowie showed his shock and disgust over how few black artists were being broadcast on the MTV network during a 1983 interview. He stated that children needed to see people who represented them and that black artists had created “very good videos” that deserved to be broadcasted. The ‘Ziggy Stardust’ performer criticised the stance of MTV and pointed out that they should be seeking to challenge the status quo. In the unearthed clip, Bowie transformed from interviewee to interviewer and fiercely questioned why black people were not given the same rights as their white counterparts. He highlighted the issues that have been campaigned against by black rights activists and allies for decades. Most recently, this has been observed during marches and protests after the death of George Floyd in the US – where many across the world have called for police reform and sought to reiterate discrimination and inequality faced by people of colour. 

David Bowie revealed that he was “flawed” by MTV predominantly playing white artists during ‘primetime’, while black artists appeared to only be shown between 2.30AM and 6AM.

Interviewer Mark Goodman denied the allegations of “narrowcasting” and a lack of representation, claiming the interpretations of their music video selections were down to individual perception. 

He added that the network hadn’t made any intentional decisions to only broadcast black artists outside of their most popular viewing hours.

Bowie fired back: “There seems to be a lot of black artists making very good videos that I’m surprised aren’t used on MTV.”

The interviewer responded: “We have to try and do not only what New York and Los Angeles will appreciate but also Poughkeepsie or the Midwest.

“Pick some town in the Midwest that would be scared to death by Prince, which we’re playing, or a string of other black faces.”

Flabbergasted by the response, Bowie said: “That’s very interesting, isn’t that interesting?”

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Mr Goodman continued to claim that black artists like the Isley Brothers and The Spinners were important to him but may not appeal to all teenagers.

Bowie interjected: “I’ll tell you what it means… to a black 17-year-old and surely he’s part of America as well!

“Do you not find that it’s a frightening predicament to be in?”

In a more irate tone, Bowie vented: “Well don’t say, ‘It’s not me, it’s them!’ is it not possible that it should be a conviction of the station and other radio stations to be fair.

“It does seem to be rampant throughout American media, should it not be a challenge to try to make the media far more integrated in music, especially anything in musical terms.”

Mr Goodman added that “a lot of black kids and white kids want to see black music”, and that the US had changed over the years to support all musicians.

But, he caveated: “We can’t just turn around and go ‘well look this is the right way we can only teach a little bit at a time.’”

Clearly in disagreement Bowie bit his lip and stated: “Interesting, interesting. Thank you very much. I understand your point of view.”

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