Viacom Networks Are Going Dark to Support National School Walkout
At 10 A.M., Viacom will pause the programming on its networks for 17 minutes to honor the 17 people who were killed in the Parkland shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. That means MTV, BET, VH1, and more will all be plunged into silence, withholding regularly scheduled content in tribute to the students and teachers. The timing also holds special significance: Wednesday is the day of the National School Walkout, during which students and teachers all across the country will walk out of their classrooms for 17 minutes. The walkout is also a protest, centered on demanding Congress to pass stricter gun-control laws, according to Empower, the group that organized the walkout.
“At 10 A.M. on Wednesday, March 14, all Viacom networks and platforms will suspend regularly scheduled programming for 17 minutes,” the company stated in a release. “This pause will coincide with the National School Walkout, a tribute to the 17 lives lost in the Parkland shooting, and to all young victims of gun violence. Students across the country will take over MTV’s social media accounts during the walkout.”
Shari Redstone, the vice chair of Viacom’s board, will also donate $500,000 to the March for Our Lives movement. In addition, both MTV and Comedy Central will change their logos to orange, the color that connotes gun violence awareness. Late night host Jordan Klepper will continue focusing on the topic Wednesday night on his talk show The Opposition, where he plays a satirical right-wing pundit. An in-character Klepper interviewed Parkland survivors Carly Novell and Delaney Tarr last February, mocking politicians who meekly offer “thoughts and prayers” after every mass shooting.
“As we’ve discovered, thoughts and prayers generally don’t protect you from gunfire,” Tarr replied.
The topic has been a vital and frequent one for the late night set; Trevor Noah and Stephen Colbert also dedicated segments to the Parkland student activists, who have not only powerfully advocated for stricter gun control laws, but have also masterfully used social media to deliver their message. The massive walkout will also undoubtedly be covered by the late night crowd on Wednesday.
As part of the 17-minute tribute, Viacom has also provided avenues for other young people to get involved in the movement. MTV has set up a website that links people to the March for Our Lives movement, while BET is awarding grants to innovative youth activists with ideas for addressing gun violence, as well as mental health issues. In addition, CMT will appeal directly to the country music world to support gun safety.
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Yohana DestaYohana Desta is a Hollywood writer for VanityFair.com.