Aside from farcical and failed execution, Foster’s was telling fibs about the excuse it used to try to avoid a post-AGM media conference on Monday. And the Australian Shareholders’ Association might not be as bad as we suggested in wanting to curtail hacks’ access.

ASA chairman Stephen Matthews corresponds to clarify the association’s attitude to post-AGM media conferences. It seems the ASA welcomes media conferences, as long as they take place in the same auditorium as the AGM so that shareholders can listen in. They just don’t like companies talking to the reptiles in another room closed off to shareholders and dropping information that had not been made public in the meeting or to the ASX.

“Any company that uses either ASA “policy” or an ASA “request” as a reason for not holding a post AGM media conference has misunderstood our position,” writes Matthews.

“I have been advised that we think this is the portion of our pre-AGM letter to the chairman of Foster’s that was used to claim that we had lobbied them to abandon post AGM conferences:

Immediately after last years (sic) AGM the company held a press conference in an adjoining room. Shareholders were not invited. At this forum information was provided to the press that was not given to shareholders, and so even though shareholders had attended the AGM they found new information revealed in the next days (sic) papers. This is unacceptable. We respectfully suggest a practice that other companies use. After the conclusion of the AGM, and in the same auditorium the press are invited to enter and to ask questions. Interested shareholders can remain if they wish or adjourn for the refreshments.

“In the media reports that I have seen I think Foster’s portrayed our position a little differently from this and in a way that was unintended by us.”

Which is all a bit different from the ASA quotes in last week’s Smage story. Maybe clarification is helped by a Crikey spray.

It leaves Foster’s looking duplicitous in its media relations at a time when it already has plenty of problems. No-one under pressure likes talking to journalists. Actually, no-one likes journalists, but falsely blaming the ASA for an attempted ban on them is particularly stupid.


 

Troy Hey, Foster’s Manager of External Communications, writes: While all this cloak and dagger, media exclusion stuff makes a great story, the facts and the story seem to have parted ways over the last few days. Foster’s decided this year not to continue its usual practice of hosting a dedicated media briefing – including dial-in access for journalists unable to attend – in an adjoining room. Invited media was informed that their was no separate briefing but were very welcome to attend, and those that did, spoke to the Chairman and CEO following the event. Foster’s nowhere “blamed” the ASA for our decision not to hold a separate briefing – but their preferences, as with those of all our shareholders, rightly play a part in any decision – especially on the one day a year dedicated solely to them. It’s as simple, and ultimately straightforward, as that.

Peter Fray

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