By Patrick Avenell

SYDNEY: Freeview CEO Robin Parkes this morning apologised to Harvey Norman for any upset caused by its decision to hold a media event at a Dick Smith store. Parkes told she had genuine reasons for choosing this location, and that it was not a reflection of favouritism.

“They’re upset, that’s understandable, and we’re sorry for the situation,” said Parkes. “We’re very supportive of Harvey Norman. There are no preferred retailers. Freeview is distributed everywhere, but we have no direct relationships.”

When asked to explain the thought process behind choosing a Dick Smith store for today’s media, Parkes said it was a matter of pragmatism.

“We needed a place where we could show the products in situ, and we also needed it to be a central location, that’s why it’s here [at the Dick Smith CBD store in Sydney],” she said.

But isn’t it obvious that other retailers, such as Harvey Norman, Bing Lee or JB Hi-Fi would be deterred from such a setting? Parkes says that’s irrelevant, because they weren’t even invited.

“I think Harvey Norman had misunderstood and thought it was a launch for retail and that they had been excluded – to clarify, no retailers [were] invited. It is only media, celebrities and network executives.”

Parkes neglected to included manufacturers and suppliers from this description of the guest list. She did how, however, clarify some points that were not clear from the reporting of this event by other news agencies. Quotations from executives boldly declaring they would boycott the event are rendered meaningless in the knowledge they weren’t even invited.

Still, Parkes is determined to build bridges with Harvey Norman, and the other retailers. Consumer events are currently being planned, with Parkes hoping to have celebrities visiting retail stores, including Harvey Norman franchises, to drum up publicity and foot traffic for Freeview devices, and the retailers selling them.

Also present at the event today was Parkes’ boss, ABC director of television and Freeview chairman Kim Dalton. When asked if he thought Parkes was doing a good job, in light of the recent bad publicity, he was unequivocal.

“I think she’s doing a fantastic job,” he said.