Site shows graphic music video

In an effort to garner traffic, the JamTV Web site is streaming a controversial music video that MTV and others refuse to show.

3 min read
By yanking a music video laced with graphic images, MTV Networks appeared to be sweating heated protests earlier this month against the song "Smack My Bitch Up."

But the struggling online site JamTV welcomes the fury. Perhaps the oldest trick in the book, JamTV is now streaming the video on the Net in hopes that where there is controversy, traffic will follow.

"The Web site offers visitors the opportunity to view the unedited version of the video as well as a chance to share their views and opinions by emailing JamTV," the company said in a statement. JamTV's "Video Exclusive" does carry a warning stating that the video is sexually explicit and violent, and that viewers must be 18 years of age or older.

The album, which has been pulled off the shelves by retailers Wal-Mart and K-Mart, was released in June by The Prodigy (no relation to the online service). Time Warner initially came under fire for distributing the record with parental warning labels, but the opposition really heated up when the video began running this month. The video shows gritty scenes of naked women being groped and shot up with drugs.

Although MTV called the video "groundbreaking and newsworthy," it only aired in the United States for a week between 1 and 5 a.m., and stopped altogether on December 15. Groups such as the National Organization for Women and renowned feminist Gloria Steinem charged that the marketing campaign for the song, combined with the video, promoted violence against women.

"The video glamorizes violence against women and drug use," Janice Rocco, president of the Los Angeles chapter of NOW, said today. "I don't think MTV could afford to turn young men on to violence, while at the same time turning young women off to MTV."

The Prodigy and Warner Brothers Records both released statements to the contrary. Band members reportedly said that "Smack My Bitch Up," which was lifted from a 1980s hip-hop track, doesn't refer to beating up women, but "doing anything intensely, like being on stage--going for extreme manic energy." And MTV says it wasn't swayed by NOW.

Nonetheless, the TV-snubbed video has found a home on JamTV--which may need the attention.

In November, Rolling Stone announced it was absorbing the seven-month-old JamTV into its content-driven site. (See related story)

The new "Rolling Stone Network" will go live early next quarter to face a slew of competitors, including MTV.com and Tele-Communications Incorporated. As previously reported, TCI will seal a deal tomorrow to merge with Paradigm Entertainment, which operates popular music sites SonicNet and Addicted to Noise as well as video programming site Streamland.

Streamland will compete directly with the JamTV features on the Rolling Stone Network. TCI's new music sites opted not to run the Prodigy video.

"Levi's is the anchor sponsor of Streamland. Based on our programming decision, and the audience Levi's wants to reach, and the scope of content it wants to be affiliated with, we felt that the [Prodigy video] wasn't the right fit," Tom McPartland, president of TCI Music, said today. "We felt that it was an adult-leaning video, with adult themes and concepts.

"When you're dealing with this 18-24, hyper-literate, music- and computer-savvy consumer group, then it's safe to assume that it's an adult underground community," he added. "But as you try to reach a larger audience you have to be respectful of your audience and make sure you're not surprising anyone."

With media giants such as TCI getting into the arena, JamTV and Rolling Stone may be able to carve out a niche on the fringe of the online music scene.

For example, Netizens have been combing Usenet newsgroups looking for bootleg copies of Prodigy's video, or Web sites with clips. Also, NOW says it doesn't plan to protest the Net-casting of the video.

"It's not being broadcast like TV. If someone wants to seek it out on an online site, they have a First Amendment right to do that," Rocco said.