Could This Happen to You?

Great, next you'll be telling me there's an invisible bomb in my hard drive.
"Let's cut to the commercial break like a news show. (ominous voice) Something in your house may kill you. Find out what—after the break."

So you're sitting down, getting ready to watch some Prime Time television. It's Wednesday night, and that means a new episode of your favorite show. You're excited to get through the commercials and onto the programming, when, right before the episode begins, a news advertisement plays. "Coming up, some older T.V. models appear to be linked with cases of cancer in their viewers; details at eleven."

Well, I'm not going to stay up that long, you say; I've got important work to do tomorrow. True, but is it really worth potentially dying for? Your T.V.'s about a decade old at this point, right? They never really said how old the life-threatening models were, but ten years sounds old enough. Even still, why bother to take the chance? Finding out if you're at risk is just as easy as staying up a few extra hours to watch the news. This is your life we're talking about here. You wanna tell your family, lying down on your death bed, that the reason you contracted cancer was because you didn't stay up a few measly hours to watch one news broadcast that could have saved you!?

The fundamental question in all of this, the one that keeps worry high and answers limited, is "Could this happen to you?"

This is the quintessential Real Life example of the trope. When a news station wants to drum up views, it can always rely on this tide and true scare tactic (while adding a bit of blood for good measure). This leads to a situation where the viewer would feel the need to give up any minor inconveniences if it meant saving their lives (and boosting ratings).

Rarely is the answer given before the end of the news (see Film At Eleven). This trope has given birth to Betteridge's Law of Headlines, wherein such headlines that pose such an ominous question can be immediately disproven.

No matter how often the practice is scoffed, it still proves to be effective and used all the time.

Outside of Real Life, this trope is more often poked fun of rather than invoked. If it's overly-marketed as some insanely crucial piece of media, then it is most likely a Ratings Trap rather than this trope.

See also You May Panic Now. The equal and opposite reaction to Ripped from the Headlines. Usually involves several Commercial Break Cliffhangers that promise the answer is coming up next!

The examples within these folders COULD save your life! Check in to find out how.

    open/close all folders 

     Live Action TV 

     Newspaper Comics 
  • Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin and Hobbes, has a very low opinion of television. In one strip a TV news promo takes this trope Up to Eleven, and Calvin's father opts to read the newspaper instead.
    Announcer: Next, on Eyewitness action news: blood-spattered sidewalks and shroud-covered bodies! Could the next victim be YOU?? We'll get the story from the sobbing, hysterical relatives and we'll tell you why YOU should be paralyzed with helpless fear! That's Eyewitness action news! It's what YOU need to KNOW!

     Webcomics 
  • Hiimdaisy's Persona 4 comic.
    News anchor: "Tonight: Biker gangs! In YOUR neighborhood!"
    Nanako: "YAAAAYYYY!!"
    Kanji, on screen: "GET BENT GET BENT GET BENT"

    Web Videos 
  • This exert from Glove and Boot's video "American News is crap.":
    Anchor 1: "A giant asteroid is on a collision course with Earth. Is death imminent? Do you want to live? Stay tuned, for important survival tips and essential information. But first,"
    Anchor 2: "Puppies!"

     Western Animation 
  • In Family Guy, TV anchor Tom Tucker practices in front of a mirror for different ways of announcing a president's hypothetical assassination. One of his different methods is this.
  • An old favorite of Kent Brockman from The Simpsons, of course. Did an escaped mental patient put poison in a certain brand of soda? You'll only find out which brand (and wonder why it's still on store shelves) after sports, entertainment and the weather!

     Real Life 
  • German TV channel Pro 7 does this on the slot before or after every single movie that is about a major nature phenomenon that usually ends with the world obliterated. More often than not, this will be done via a special episode of some kind of science-show and tell the audience how unlikely the event in real life would be. Sometimes also done with alien invasions, Roswell and ghosts.
  • Happens ALL THE TIME in real life. Be it chemicals in various things that could give your child cancer, or a new credit card scam, or what have you, this is transparent and frequent. While they sometimes have valid points, it's a very cheap tactic (forgoing responsibility to the public and focusing on profits by taking advantage of fear-mongering).
  • The "X? In my Y?" meme started from an ad that took this approach to porn.
  • Is this trope endemic in clickbait headlines across the entire internet? Clicking the note at the end of this sentence will give an answer that will shock you.note