At the same time, MTV decided to keep the signal unencrypted, thereby enabling viewers to see MTV without a decoder box. Additionally, Bill distributed MTV on every cable system that he could find in East Europe, thus building a substantial audience of cable and satellite home, which was unique behind the Iron Curtain.
In parallel to this opening up, television channels in countries previously shut out, there was a steady fall of communist country leadership behind the Iron Curtain.
This culminated in East Berlin during the first week on November 9th, 1989. Bill was there to give an East meets West speech. As part of his participation, he received permission to connect MTV to the conference centre and hotels in East Berlin. After weeks of coordination, Bill and his team finally connected MTV to East Berlin.
No one showed up and the journalist said it was because MTV just began transmission.
On that night, November 7th Bill went to a politburo reception to be hosted by Egon Krenz, who just succeeded Erich Honeker as president.
Bill brought an MTV camera crew with him to East Berlin which, recorded the events, in leading a flow of people to the wall.
Public demonstrations and rallies were everywhere leading to
November 9th, when the wall came down. Excitement was everywhere, even some of the East German guards were smiling. My camera crew recorded everything and many in the West came to the wall after seeing the events unfold on MTV.
Of course, contrary to some opinion, MTV did not bring the wall down. But technology – not unlike Twitter and Facebook during Arab spring – was a contributing force to the peaceful changes. The spirit of the people along with the borders of Hungary relaxing, the Pope’s visit to Poland, and most importantly the reforms and directions from Mr. Gorbachev as commander of all Warsaw Pact Soldiers (especially not to open fire) all played major roles in the peaceful breaking down of the barrier, uniting peacefully Germany and all of Europe.
After the night of November 9th, things happened very quickly to open the two sides. One year later Germany was formally united.
Bill’s background also brought personal lessons. During the Cold War he commanded three nuclear missile bases in Europe as part of NATO. For Bill, music and media became more powerful than missiles. He saw the Iron Curtain turn into the Red Carpet. Music was seen to be more powerful than missiles.
MTV returned to East Berlin in November 1994 to stage the first ever Europe Music Awards. MTV constructed at the time the largest outdoor tent, facing the Brandenburg Gate from the East with George Michael singing ‘Freedom’ as the curtains were raised showing the Brandenburg Gate, the symbol of unity.
MTV brought back the Europe Music Awards in 2009, the 20th Anniversary, once again on Pariser Platz facing the Brandenburg Gate.
U2 sang “One”, as laser lit symbols of peace and unity projected on the Brandenburg Gate.
MTV has a deep and personal connection with Berlin, first by our connection with “Breaking down barriers” and secondly by standing for unity.
Bill gave out pieces of the wall to everyone at MTV as a symbol of breaking down barriers, which MTV were also attempting to do with its business. He also purchased an original 3-ton section of wall as part of the living Museum of peaceful unity at an event presented the “Free Your Mind” Award to President Gorbachev.
In 2011 Bill travelled to Fulton, Missouri, to give the same speech which Winston Churchill delivered on March 5, 1946 at Westminster College.
By coining the phrase Iron Curtain, Churchill effectively defined the next 45 years of Cold War. Bill subsequently purchased his “Wilderness Years” Apartment where he wrote his lone voice speeches against Hitler and Nazis Germany. At Westminster, after the War, he once again proved to be the lone voice, and prognosticating the Cold War.
These events and experiences provide bookend on each side of the Cold War.
First Bookend: March 5th, 1946- Iron Curtain speech by Churchill. He was a lone voice once again, warning the world of a new threat, thereby laying stage to the Cold War.
Ahead of his time, also voiced pro-Europe unity.
The Cold War was dominated by nuclear missiles and the threat of world-wide destruction. A period which also brought proxy wars between the US and Soviet Union, the biggest one in Vietnam.
Second Bookend: November 9th, 1989 fall of The Berlin Wall following, from January to November in Eastern Europe. One by one,
in each communist country the leadership is overthrown by the people (with few exceptions) peacefully.
In parallel, starting in the early 1989 MTV, launched behind the Iron Curtain, exposing audiences for the first time to western-style commercials and music.
Uniting Europe both – – West and East.
1989, divided Germany united with the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Nov 1990, Germany has officially reunited.
Berlin 1994, Nov (our first ever EMA), celebrating unity.
Later in December 1991 Soviet Union ceased to exist
Hammer & Sickle became the Russian Flag
November 2009 again at Brandenburg Gate, the 20th Anniversary of the fall of the wall. MTV EMAs, with U2 at Brandenburg Gate.
November 2014, the 25th Anniversary, met the leaders from 1987, including Mikhail Gorbachev.
About Berlin Wall and The Cold War
2014 was a historic year for Berlin. It marked the 25th anniversary of the most significant event in recent German history: the Fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989. To remember the day many exhibitions and events will take place.