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Anyone think the Sun Valley Media Conference could be a good location for 'collusion' , and 'unfair trade practice' discussions? Why don't they want reporters around? The media is supposed to be in favor of 'free speech'. Here's some info on the annual meeting. I put some of the really troubling things in bold, and the most troubling in bold italics.

Oprah Winfrey has been there. So have Steve Jobs, Edgar Bronfman Jr., Katharine Graham, Bill Gates and Sumner Redstone. Warren Buffett is a regular, as is Rupert Murdoch.

Even Mexican President Vicente Fox showed up in 2001 to encourage investment in his country.

Now it's Paul Martin's turn to press the flesh among some of the world's most powerful media moguls during the 22nd Sun Valley conference at a plush resort nestled among the mountains of central Idaho.

The conference is the brainchild of Herbert Allen, of New York investment banking boutique Allen & Co., a firm that specializes in helping finance media transactions.

Mr. Allen decided in the early 1980s to try to drum up business by inviting top players in the media and technology businesses, along with key institutional investors, to mix and mingle at a secluded spot. The event has become an annual pilgrimage for executives and those who want to help them do deals.

The executives' families are invited along, an incentive for them to stay for the full five days and enjoy ancillary fun: whitewater rafting, golfing, horseback riding and skating on an all-season outdoor ice rink.

The conference is a coveted invitation, with about 250 of the chosen few asked to attend each year. That number grows to more than 500 with spouses and kids.

Adding to the secretive cachet is the fact that news media are not welcome. While reporters can stay at the resort and are free to schmooze with executives in bars and restaurants, they're barred from conference sessions.

"It's the ultimate media-mogul confab," said Richard Siklos, a New York-based journalist who showed up at Sun Valley conferences in 1999 and 2000 to absorb the atmosphere and chat up the executives.

The moguls aren't allowed to bring assistants or handlers, which adds to the tone of exclusivity and informality where the decision makers can "try to put deals together or pool their thinking on how to dominate the world ," Mr. Siklos said.

Up until a few years ago, the unwashed could get a glimpse into Sun Valley world when Vanity Fair magazine published an annual portrait of some of the most famous attendees, by photographer Annie Leibovitz, to illustrate the publication's ranking of the "most powerful leaders of the information age."

The magazine has dropped that tradition, apparently after complaints from some conference attendees who didn't make it into the picture.

Adding to the glamour of the conference is the appearance of senior politicians such as Mr. Martin and Mr. Fox, or California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has also been invited this year but has not confirmed his attendance.

Mr. Martin's brief appearance -- a one-day fly-in to make a speech today -- was thanks to the efforts of the one regular Canadian attendee at the conference, Bell Globemedia president Ivan Fecan.

Mr. Fecan played a "key role" in getting the Prime Minister to show up, conference executive director Will Reed said.

Aside from Mr. Martin's speech, those attending this year will hear from Hewlett-Packard Co. chief executive officer Carly Fiorina, and Donald Graham, publisher of The Washington Post.

It's outside the formal presentations and speeches, however, that the big deal-making reputedly happens. One of the enduring stories about the Sun Valley conference is that the $19-billion (U.S.) purchase of Capital Cities/ABC by Walt Disney Co. came about in 1996 during a conversation in the resort's parking lot between Mr. Buffett, the fabled investor, and Disney chief executive Michael Eisner.

Those kinds of legends have given the Sun Valley conference an almost mythic reputation, Mr. Siklos said, just as the event itself has provided the media moguls a forum to exercise their power over the communications industry.

"Sun Valley actually kind of created the age of the media mogul," he said. "It gave a structure and a form to this idea of a group of people who run the information world."

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