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MTV Returning to Washington

Youth Activism Inspires 'Be the Change Inaugural Ball'

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (AdAge.com) -- The Democrats are returning to Washington. Now MTV is trying to take back its place in the sun at the presidential inauguration.

Sixteen years after MTV's live broadcast of the "Rock 'N Roll Inaugural Ball" for Bill Clinton, MTV is planning a return engagement for the Jan. 20 inauguration of Barack Obama.
The Clintons at MTV's 1993 'Rock 'n Roll Inaugural Ball.'
The Clintons at MTV's 1993 'Rock 'n Roll Inaugural Ball.' Credit: AP

In 1993, the network's party featuring the Eagles' Don Henley and U2 became one of the year's hottest inauguration tickets, attracting not only the new president but the new vice president and creme de la creme of Hollywood.

Preparations under way
This time around, the "Be the Change Inaugural Ball" will again feature major musical stars and air live on MTV and other MTV channels. The cable channel has not finalized talent or the exact length of the broadcast, though it likely will air for two hours or more.

MTV will join with ServiceNation, a group that promotes volunteering, to host not only the inaugural ball but activities showcasing youth volunteering in schools, workplaces and churches and community institutions. The live broadcast will include stories of volunteering.

"Over the last year and culminating in this election, we have seen a groundswell of engagement and a refreshed spirit of activism from young people," said Stephen Friedman, general manager of MTV. "ServiceNation is the perfect partner for this inaugural event, given they encompass a broad coalition of youth service organizations. We want to celebrate young people across the nation who are answering the call and working to make changes in their communities and beyond."

Still unclear is whether the ball will draw the night's honorees, new President Barack Obama and new first lady Michelle and Vice President Joe Biden and wife Jill.

After drawing the Clintons along with Vice President Al Gore and his wife, Tipper, to its first ball in 1993, MTV lessened its involvement and didn't do any similar event for President George W. Bush's inauguration.

Momentum fades
In 1997, for President Clinton's second term, it held a scaled-back party with no musical performers. MTV held no 2001 inauguration ball in part because the delay in deciding the election made planning an event difficult. MTV covered the 2005 Bush inauguration on MTV News, but it had neither a party nor a ball.

Jeannie Kedas, an MTV spokeswoman, said the decision to do a ball this time wasn't a reflection of political parties, but reflects the involvement of youth in the election this time.

"It's not about the candidate as much as it is about youth involvement," she said. "This was clearly an election that was driven by youth activism, and it felt appropriate to celebrate that and do what we can to keep that spirit of activism going."
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