A hypothesis on maintenance of fears
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The article is focused on a function of the mass media that stems from the tacit rule that “bad news make good news”. This refers to emphatic coverage of negative events, facts, processes and media violence, which instill fear, insecurity, anxiety, tension in the audience. No mass media make an exception to this trend. One can watch, hear or read coverage such as: “The end of the world has been postponed”, “The flue epidemic this year is expected to be much bigger and worse”, etc. Negative coverage instilling fear and insecurity refers above all to various forms of violence: killings, beatings, psychological harassment, sexual harassment. Fear and insecurity are also engendered by coverage of drug abuse, alcohol abuse, traffic accidents, disasters, failures, abuses related to product quality, prices, expiry dates, financial or document crimes, etc. A content analysis study of central evening news broadcasts on three of the most widely watched Bulgarian television stations, conducted under the author’s leadership in 2011 and 2012 is used for developing the fear maintenance hypothesis. Most generally, the similarities between the two set of data are the following: -the media inspire fear, anxiety of various kinds, and the feeling that the problems are unsolvable; -violence in the media is shown daily and holds a relatively high share of the coverage; -the media predominantly inspire pessimism. The author’s thesis is that the mass media maintain people’s fears and anxiety; this is more than a hypothetic construct. It would be appropriate to designate this as the fear maintenance theory, and place it alongside the theory of cultivation (G. Gerbner), the social learning theory (A. Bandura), etc.
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