Channel
7 and SBS have this week decided they won’t screen the latest
television commercials about the Timor Sea dispute that were written
and funded by Australian businessman Ian Melrose.

The two ads
were originally scheduled to be screened over Easter to mark the
anniversary of the Australian Government’s withdrawal of recognition of
the maritime boundary jurisdiction of the International Court of
Justice. They accuse Australia of stealing $2 billion from East Timor
and claim that “stealing from a third world country kills their
children”.

The networks have not yet supplied written statements
outlining the reasons why they refuse to screen the ads, but have
indicated that they were concerned about the content of the ads for
young viewers. Melrose says this is nonsense: “The ads have already
been approved by the appropriate bodies and were deemed suitable for
free-to-air television, so that can’t be the reason,” he told Crikey
today.

Melrose was motivated to run the advertising campaign
after reading about the death of a 12-year-old girl from worm
infestation. A 20 cent tablet could have helped to prevent her death.
Decorated Australian diggers haver taken up the cause and appeared in
earlier ads as reported here.

“What
I want to know,” says Melrose, “is, has there been any correspondence
between the networks and the Australian government? What’s changed
since the last ads were screened?”

Good question. With
Parliament up for seven weeks, there will be little pressure on the
government over this issue. But which enterprising hack is prepared to
take up the Melrose challenge and ask some tough questions of the
government and the networks? You can check out the ads online here and judge why the TV networks are turning down the Melrose money.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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