MTV had a landmark year in 1983. The network broke into the mainstream following the airing of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” music video in heavy rotation, a decision that was forced upon the network by Walter Yetnikoff, the president of Jackson’s record label. The network initially refused to air the video because it was made by a black artist. That criticism was not just from Jackson’s label, however. Also in 1983, during an interview with Mark Goodman, David Bowie used his platform on MTV itself to criticize the network for its lack of videos by black artists. In the interview, Bowie points out, “There seem to be a lot of black artists making very good videos that I’m surprised aren’t being used on MTV.”
Now we can forever remember 1983 as the year Bowie and Jackson made MTV get its act together.