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MTV Goes Dark Over Hate

NEW YORK -To kick off its new anti-discrimination campaign, MTV: Music Television this week will go dark for the first time ever-for 17 hours-to honor hate-crime victims.

As part of its "Fight for Your Rights: Take a Stand Against Discrimination" effort, MTV will run a continuous scroll listing the names of hundreds of victims of discrimination crimes from across the country, MTV president of programming Brian Graden said last week.

"Our hope is it really gets the attention of our audience," Graden said.

The commercial-free scroll will begin this Wednesday, Jan. 10, at 10 p.m. and continue until Thursday, Jan. 11, at 3:30 p.m. It follows MTV's commercial-free debut of its original movie on the murder of gay Wyoming college student Matthew Shepard, Anatomy of a Hate Crime, and an MTV News special on bias crimes. Airing the ad-free scroll will cost MTV $2 million in revenue, according to Graden.

"It wasn't even an issue internally," he said. "We'll make the money up somewhere else."

As part of this year's pro-social campaign, MTV will run more than 200 hours of programming relating to the issue of discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual preference or physical and mental disorders, Graden said.

MTV will partner with a wide variety of civil-rights organizations for its 2001 "Fight for Your Rights" campaign, including the Anti-Defamation League, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, and the Human Rights Campaign.

As part of the campaign, youths can go to MTV's Web site to send electronic mail urging their congressional representatives and the president to pass federal hate-crimes legislation.

MTV has itself received criticism for airing the music videos of controversial rapper Eminem, whose lyrics are considered by some to be sexist and homophobic. The network said it plans to examine discrimination in pop culture as part of its public-affairs campaign.

Last year, MTV officials noticed that issue surface with respect to such entertainers as Don Imus and Eminem.

"It's very in vogue to be politically incorrect," Graden said."

Though some of these personalities make such comments to be funny, Graden said a few have crossed the line and given the "disenfranchised something they can rally around."

In defense of MTV's airing of Eminem videos, Graden said the network has run the white rapper's "more sanitary" videos, which don't include some of the more offensive content that appears on his albums. Graden conceded that last year MTV executives "agonized" over what to do with Eminem, and decided "it's not our role to censor pop culture."

So although MTV has aired the videos, it did not actively promote Eminem's albums last year. It also produced a number of specials on hate and discrimination, according to Graden.