The State Department press corps was locked in a screening room at a television studio here last week as MTV: Music Television taped a global forum in which Secretary of State Colin Powel fielded questions from MTV audiences in seven countries.
But many of the veteran reporters hooted as the kids asked Powell questions few network television journalists would have the nerve to ask. Powell blushed after a student located at MTV's Milan, Italy studio asked Powell for his take on the Catholic Church's opposition to condoms.
Another forum participant, located in a studio in London, asked Powell how he feels "about representing a country commonly perceived as the Satan of contemporary politics."
MTV, which ran the special in the U.S. on Feb. 14, said it screened questions from 200-plus participants, but that didn't prevent some of the students from asking biting queries.
"Young people are very passionate. They're much more intelligent than other people give them credit for, and they're not shy to ask whatever is on their mind about a particular topic that is impacting their lives," MTV president Van Toffler said afterward.
MTV executive vice president Dave Sirulnick said he and two producers came up with the idea for the forum shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks. The network first invited President Bush to participate in a forum, he added.
It took several months to plan the forum, which involved about 250 MTV employees in seven countries. The network relied on student leaders in each of the territories that were involved to help recruit other students, he added.
Powell also took questions from studio audiences in Cairo, Moscow, New Delhi, Washington and São Paulo, Brazil. Recorded last Thursday morning, the program, An MTV Global Discussion with Colin Powell, was originally scheduled to run for one hour, at 8 p.m., that night. But the forum went longer than scheduled, and MTV presented the entire 90-minute session. MTV's international networks were also scheduled to run the forum at various times between Feb. 15 and Feb. 22.
MTV is considering scheduling similar forums with other leaders, Toffler said. He and Sirulnick wouldn't discuss specific costs for the event, but acknowledged that leasing several satellites for the forum was expensive.