Music Box (TV channel)

Music Box
Launched 29 March 1984
Closed 30 January 1987

Music Box was a pioneering pan-European 24-hour cable and satellite channel that ran from 29 March 1984 to 30 January 1987, and was operated by Music Box Ltd. It was originally one of three channels along with PREM1ERE and The Children's Channel, that formed Thorn EMI's venture into satellite television, as a British version of music channel MTV. Music Box later found itself as part of Virgin Vision, one of Richard Branson's business ventures launched in 1983.


As a 24-hour TV channel in the 1980s, Music Box was able to reach 60 million potential viewers in Europe and the Middle East thanks to satellite distribution. At the time, a satellite dish and receiver were very expensive and for this reason the channel had better viewing figures in countries where cable TV was largely used, such as the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Scandinavia; it was also a success in the UK and Republic of Ireland. Music Box was also partially retransmitted on several terrestrial local channels in Italy and a special Italian version of Music Box was created in spring of 1988. Some Music Box shows were also retransmitted by Japanese broadcaster NHK. In 1986, the Yorkshire Television region of the UK's ITV decided to go 24 hours a day, but little cash was invested in that service, and so much of the downtime was filled with a rebroadcast of Music Box. It was the first time that an ITV company regularly broadcast 24 hours. Music Box was originally based in the heart of London, in a building where Virgin Vision and Super Channel were also based, and later gave home to the London offices of CNN International and Cartoon Network. The address during the satellite years was 19-21 Rathbone Place, London.

On 30 January 1987 Super Channel was launched on the same satellite frequency previously used by Music Box on pan-European satellite Eutelsat 1-F1 located at 13° east, replaced during 1987 by Eutelsat 1-F4. For this reason Music Box stopped being a 24-hour TV channel, and Virgin set up Music Box as an independent producer of music programmes, continuing to broadcast its shows until the end of September 1987 for 10 hours a day on Super Channel. From October 1987 until January 1990 it was reduced from 10 hours a day to just a couple of hours a day of music programmes to be produced for Super Channel, with a two-month-long break in late 1988 due to problems related to the sale of Super Channel. Music Box ended its satellite broadcasts in January 1990 with the last pan-European showing of The Power Hour.

The creator of the three satellite channels, as director of programmes, was Julian Mounter, who joined Music Box from Thames Television. Recognising that income for satellite television would be slow in coming, Mounter set about negotiating revolutionary union deals to enable the use of smaller crews in the studio and on location. He commandeered a boardroom at the HQ of Thorn EMI as one of the studios and a small basement on Shaftesbury Avenue, and it was there that many of the programmes were made before better facilities were found. The channels broke new ground in graphics, promotion and presentation, and set standards and practices still followed today. Mounter left in 1986 to become director general of Television New Zealand, and the three channels then took on individual senior management.

Music Box as a satellite channel was said to have made a small contribution to the overthrow of eastern European communist regimes as, in its prime, it was illegally watched by young Europeans living in those countries using makeshift satellite systems. It gave many young people their first view of life in the rest of Europe.

Directors on the channel included Rob Jones, who took over from Mounter as director of programmes, Geoffrey Davies, Rod Fairweather, John Leach, Les Harris, Ludo Graham, Simon Sanders and Siubhan Richmond.

After leaving satellite broadcasting, Music Box became a specialised producer of music shows for major British broadcasters and is now owned by Tinopolis, which also owns the firm Sunset+Vine, previously the owner of Music Box. The company's best-known programme of this period was the late night ITV show Forever which features pop videos and interview clips from stock footage.

Programmes (productions from Music Box as a pan-European satellite channel - 1984-90)

Programmes (productions for other British broadcasters, since 1990)


The following presenters have all been employed by Music Box either as presenters or VJs:

Some presenters also recorded a track and video for a song called "Back To The Rhythm" under the name of "The Rap Pack", in December 1986. The Rap Pack were: Nino Firetto, Amanda Redington, Gloria, Timmy Mallett, Steve Blacknell, Simon Potter and Martin Buchanan.

Last music video as a channel on its own

The last music video that they played before it turned into Super Channel (30 January 1987) was "Don't Give Up" by Kate Bush & Peter Gabriel.

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