In an interview with Penthouse, Bowie described MTV's alleged racism as "extraordinarily blatant."
Bowie said he first heard about the channel excluding black artists from black musician Nile Rodgers, whom he had hired to work with him to produce his album Let's Dance.
Rodgers told Bowie that "black music" was frequently excluded from "white radio and white television," and noted MTV's refusal to play "Super Freak" by Rick James because it "didn't define him as rock."
"I'm just tired of the bullshit," James once told Rolling Stone. "I have sold over 10 million records in a four-year period ... and I can't get on the channel."
But it wasn't until he was interviewed on air by MTV VJ Mark Goodman in 1982 that Bowie directly challenged the network on its exclusion of artists of color.
"We have to play music we think an entire country is going to like, and certainly we're a rock and roll station," Goodman argued after Bowie asked about the lack of black artists.
Bowie replied, "Is it not possible it should be a conviction of the station and of the radio stations to be fair... to make the media more integrated?"
Goodman later said the interaction with the musical idol made him feel "like an idiot."
He recalled their meeting for the 2013 book VJ: The Unplugged Adventures of MTV's First Wave:
I said, "I have some tough questions for you, David — I hope you're ready."
And he said, "Ha, great, because at the end I'd like to ask you some punishing questions as well."