NEW YORK—With four years to go before 2000, MTV is already launching a campaign designed to ensure widespread Generation X participation in the decennial national census survey.
"Let's be gettin' tallied!" popular rap artist/television star Queen Latifah shouted to the crowd at a free concert kicking off the "Rock the Census" program. "Yo—somebody say cen-sus… Cen-sus! Sur-vey… sur-vey! Hell, yeah!"
According to MTV officials, in addition to a series of free concerts, the Rock the Census program will include: special Blockbuster-sponsored registration spots; an interactive website where teens can "chat" with rock stars like Lenny Kravitz and Jewel about the history of the census; and a fleet of recreational vehicles, or DemographicMobiles, that will travel around the country distributing to teens brightly colored packets of raw statistical data about the U.S. populace.
Tabitha Soren, an MTV reporter well-known for her hard-hitting, in-depth investigative journalism, said that the Rock the Census program is an outgrowth of the network's "Rock the Vote" campaign, begun during the 1992 presidential campaign, which as of July 1996 had registered more than 80 new voters across the country.
"Back in 1990, a lot of young people didn't participate in the census," Soren said. "Most of them just didn't think it was 'cool.' Well, by the time 2000 rolls around, we want every kid in America to know that it's cool to be counted."
Also on hand to launch the campaign was Matt LeBlanc, star of NBC's runaway smash-hit comedy Friends, who is featured in the first on-air spot. LeBlanc said he was "excited and honored" to be part of the drive. "The Census is really important, and it's important that young people recognize that importance," LeBlanc said.
Soren gave a preview of the website (http:www.mtv.census.cool!.com), which in addition to major rock stars will feature Census-related trivia, interviews with Census workers, and easy-to-follow practice forms designed to make giving personal statistical information like age and annual income fun.
Web-surfers will also be able to download several specially written Census songs, like the Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Funk'n Up Your Seven-Page Census Form" and Prince's "U R 2 Quantifiable 4 the U.S. Bureau of Statistics."
MTV has grown increasingly active on the political scene in the past few years. In conjunction with last year's early April tax rush, the network aired "Yo! MTV Tithes!" a one-hour special hosted by rap star Coolio aimed at getting inner-city youth to properly fill out their annual tax returns.