Subject: AU: Businessman to sue over Timor ad ban

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The Australian

July 22, 2005 Friday All-round First Edition

Businessman to sue over Timor ad ban

Natasha Robinson

BUSINESSMAN Ian Melrose will sue television stations that refused to run his advertisements criticising the Government's negotiations with East Timor over oil and gas revenues in the Timor Sea.

Mr Melrose -- under fire from East Timor Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta, who has labelled the ads "counter-productive" -- has vowed to step up his campaign, even in the face of Mr Ramos Horta's public rebuke.

Commercials Acceptance Division, a private company wholly owned by the free-to-air TV stations, has responsibility for classifying most advertisements shown on free-to-air television. It has refused to approve some of Mr Melrose's ads for screening on TV but won't give him a reason for the ban.

Under Australian Broadcasting Authority guidelines, advertising agencies must submit advertisements to CAD for classification and are required to answer questions about standards compliance. The CAD then advises the ABA of its decision on classification.

Melbourne barrister Julian Burnside QC will run the action on behalf of Mr Melrose.

"The advertisements that he wanted to run were unexceptional, except for the fact they are critical of the Government," Mr Burnside said.

"Who are these people (CAD) who for commercial profit put themselves between the people and the television stations? It is astonishing to think that content is filtered out by some bunch who are unaccountable and won't give reasons for their decisions."

One advertisement disallowed by CAD was to be screened after Anzac Day this year. It showed Diggers who fought in East Timor during World War II declaring: "I'm ashamed to be Australian."

Mr Melrose told The Australian yesterday he had begun production of a further 16 ads, which he would shortly mail to politicians for viewing.

He was unrepentant yesterday for his campaign against the Government, despite Mr Ramos Horta's criticism.

"I think it is quite legitimate for me as an Australian citizen to criticise my Government when I think they are doing the wrong thing," Mr Melrose said.

Mr Ramos Horta's statement said some of the ads "suggest that the Timor Leste Government does not know, cannot know, is not able, to defend our own country's vital interests. We were able to do so for 24 long years against overwhelming odds."

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