News Corporation has been good enough to post a full replay of last week’s Adelaide shareholder information meeting on its website, so you can go to specific parts of the meeting and listen.

For
instance, if you go to the 90 minute mark you’ll find the Crikey
exchanges and after 97 minutes there is the unprecedented situation of
a News Corp executive, Newstext boss Alan Farrelly, who actually dares to get up and ask a question. The exchange went as follows:

Executive:
Hello, Alan Farrelly, shareholder and a very junior executive of this
company (“oh yeah,” said Rupert ironically) and editor of a number of
your newspapers in the past. Just one on the (earlier) question about
buying News Ltd shares for dividends. I bought News Ltd shares 20-odd
years ago, the dividends have been absolutely minuscule, but the $5000
I spent then is probably worth about a quarter of a million. But I’d
like the company, or Mr Murdoch, to consider returning back to offering
new shares instead of cash for dividends. Since the move to America
I’ve noticed I get a cheque for a few hundred dollars. I much prefer to
get the shares that we used to get in the past, thank you.

Rupert:
We’ll certainly continue to look at that. I’m very glad you’ve made
money on your shares. Most people who have been prepared to take a long
term view on this company have done brilliantly, and more than any
other company in Australia, I think. However, we do recognise the fact
that the share price at the moment is rotten. There is some disconnect
between our constant growth and the share price. If you look at all the
share prices of the major media companies in the world, there is a bit
of an investment strike. People are worried about the impact of new
technologies. As people realise that as the world goes on and gets more
complicated and more advanced, then media is going to be a bigger and
more central industry than ever before and that companies that are run
well and produce every increasing profits per share, I think you’ll
find the market will come back quite strongly, but when, I can’t tell
you.

Is Farrelly trying to get the sack? No executive has ever
before dared to ask an unscripted question of Rupert in public. Then
again, Farrelly is now 65 and approaching the end of a stellar 30-year
career with News Ltd that has included two stints editing The Australian, plus time in charge of The Sunday Herald, The South China Morning Post and the Sydney News. These days he’s digitising the groups vast archives and getting them online.

We
understand it was Farrelly’s first News Corp AGM and he was in Adelaide
as one of the judges of the News Awards. What next, Terry McCrann
asking a question at one of Rupert’s press conferences?

As for
Farrelly’s numbers, we very much doubt the returns have been that good
but we will crunch the numbers for tomorrow. Rupert’s claim that News
Corp has outperformed every other company in history is also hard to
sustain when you consider the performance of Westfield since 1961.

As Deutsche Bank’s former News Corp analyst Mike Mangan pointed out on Eureka Report,
News Corp has not delivered any shareholder return over the past seven
years and earnings per share remain at the same level as 1987.