Tycoon Henry Fok Ying-tung has criticised the Government for implementing a high land price policy, and home-buyers blame developers, agents and speculators for heating up the property market. But they are not the only ones to blame for fuelling speculation. It is easy to target developers, speculators, agents or the Government, but of late the media also appears to be part of the problem. The media should be an impartial party. In the case of property coverage, it should simply report events in the sector fairly and accurately. But an alarming trend has crept into the media in the past few months. Instead of being an independent observer, sections of the media have become a participant in this frantic speculative game. Newspapers and magazines especially have been inundated with stories of all kinds of record-breaking transactions since the property market started to hot up last summer. But there is a distinct lack of any critical analysis. Many in the media seem to be content taking the words of property agents and developers for granted. When they claim that a certain flat in a certain block could be sold at, or should be worth, $10,000 or $20,000 per square foot, a leap of up to 100 per cent compared with last summer's prices, they are printed word for word by some sections of the media without the slightest query. And when speculators allege prices will continue to rise, they are quoted without any reservation. The talking point is always when a new record will be broken and which particular blocks and flats should be worthy of home-buyers' and investors' special attention. In some recent cases, high-profile private housing projects receive so much coverage, including details of preferential mortgage terms and colourful pictures of facilities and furniture, that the news pages look more like developers' sale brochures. It seems there is one single message which is simple and clear: if you do not buy now, you are bound to lose. It is hard to believe the media is deliberately trying to incite speculative activity. More likely, many in the media have been so captured by the climate of hysteria that it has overpowered their commonsense. But this should not be accepted as a reason for news space being filled with propaganda. There are potential dangers for the media in allowing such an unprofessional practice. The media can have a big role to play in calming down potential home-buyers' anxiety. One of the reasons why the speculative activities are so rampant is that some of the genuine home-buyers, not speculators, are worried that if they do not buy now, they will never be able to. The property market, especially Hong Kong's, is a matter of psychology. Over the past eight months, nothing fundamental has changed in the property sector and there has not been a sudden severe shortage of flats. The prices shot up simply because people believed, instead of having any proof, that the prices were not going to come down. If the media has a more balanced coverage of property news and analysis; if it can stop focusing only on record-breaking transactions and give more coverage to average sales, home-buyers may start to think that there are still properties they can afford and that they do not have to panic. If more people take a measured view about flat purchases, then there will be a better chance for Hong Kong to cool down the market. The media can do a lot in this respect. All that is needed is a clearer and more stringent guideline in property news reporting.