Is the outcome of the first election of the SAR legislature a foregone conclusion? Most journalists and indeed many of the candidates seem to think so. One need look no further than the election forum held by ATV Home television channel last Saturday. The forum for the Kowloon East constituency was attended by two rival camps: Szeto Wah, Fred Li Wah-ming and Mak Hoi-wah of the Democratic Party; and Chan Yuen-han, Kwok Bit-chun and Lam Man-fai of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong (DAB). Ideally, such a forum would provide the perfect opportunity for all the candidates to introduce themselves to the electorate. It would also give them the chance to publicise their personal beliefs. But this is not how things turned out. The hour-long question-and-answer session was dominated by Messrs Szeto and Li and Ms Chan - the candidates tipped as the most likely winners. If this had been intended as a forum for the trio, it would have been fine. But as an interchange supposedly for all six candidates, it was less than satisfactory. To his credit, Mr Mak did make some effort to chip in, but Ms Chan's partners were virtually silent. Potential voters and political observers must have found themselves wondering why the DAB pair were there at all. Have they got views? Are they really participating in the elections whole-heartedly? Why did they not try to speak up more? Why didn't Ms Chan leave them more of a chance to get across their views? Perhaps the party knows Ms Chan is going to win and hopes her strength will spill over to carry a second member to victory. Making Ms Chan the only speaker is likely to have been a hardheaded calculation based on how the list system works - that victory or defeat in all of the constituencies really depends on the performance of the star candidates; the other seats will be won or lost on their coat-tails. Such an assessment is no doubt shared by the media, which to date have given the lion's share of coverage to the established candidates. Little has been reported about the lesser-known aspirants, with the result that potential voters may not even be able to recognise these candidates' names, let alone know their commitments. The media are perhaps, like the political parties, heavily influenced by the results of public opinion polls conducted in the past two months which predicted that only the star candidates will win. The media may think it a waste of time to report on the lesser-knowns. But is this right? Has this belief become a self-fulfilling prophecy? Are the media doing their job properly by allowing it to happen? It is understandable that to maximise their chance of winning the highest number of seats, political parties are not interested in running the risk of giving the lesser lights a prominent role in the electioneering. But there is no excuse for the media not to look at these candidates in more depth. Finding out more about their backgrounds and their views on different subjects, pinning them down on their political beliefs and convictions, cross-examining them on grey areas - these are ways to hold public figures accountable. And this is part of the media's responsibility in a democratic society. For the media, whether in the end the lesser-known candidates are elected is not the only important thing. What is important is for the media to give the public the chance to know about the next generation of political leaders. It is still not too late for the media to adjust their reporting strategy. There are four more weeks to polling day and if the media can do more to balance their coverage, they will be doing a great service to the community.