Big Deal: NDTV sues Nielsen for fixing TV ratings

NDTV has filed a suit against The Nielsen Company and other defendants in the US, under New York State laws. The channel NDTV has been discussing their unhappiness with various aspects of the viewership data, continuously from 2004 to 2012.

Anant Rangaswami July 31, 2012 16:05:48 IST
Big Deal: NDTV sues Nielsen for fixing TV ratings

There have been, over the years, a number of instances when broadcasters have been unhappy with the TAM ratings. TAM ratings, to the uninitiated, are the ratings which measure television audiences in India. There have been rumours of broadcasters being able to ‘fix’ the ratings, with the help of corrupt TAM executives.

NDTV has filed a suit against The Nielsen Company and other defendants in the US, under New York State laws. According to the suit, the channel had been discussing their unhappiness with various aspects of the viewership data, continuously from 2004 to 2012. Obviously, they do not have any faith that the situation will change, leading to the filing of the suit.

When asked for a response on the developments, the following statement was issued, quoting a TAM spokesperson: “TAM India, a 50:50 joint venture between Kantar Media and Nielsen, doesn’t comment on any litigation.”

NDTV is not just angry – they are very, very angry. NDTV has asked for $580 million for negligence and a minimum of $810 million for fraud.

“This is a case, brought under New York State laws, of negligence, gross negligence, false representations, prima facie tort and negligence per se... This is also a case of a once noble company, Nielsen...exhibiting unabashed short term greed and reckless disregard of its duties and of its noble origin. It is a case of the two largest audience measurement conglomerates in the world, Nielsen and Kantar, formerly competitors, operating worldwide through a deliberately complex web of subsidiaries and joint ventures, creating, at least in India, a monopoly and abusing the power of that monopoly,” says the suit.

The entire suit can be read at deadline.com, but, for the benefit of Firstpost readers, we reproduce two of the most damaging paragraphs, if proven to be true.

Big Deal NDTV sues Nielsen for fixing TV ratings

Reuters

“On April 3, 2012, a meeting was held between the representatives of NDTV, namely, Rahul Sood, Sidharth Barhate and Anand Mohan Jha, and two field staff employees of TAM (one provided his first name, while the other did not disclose his name) at Ramada Plaza Hotel, Juhu, Mumbai. The TAM employees revealed that they were employed in Mumbai to look after, and collect data from, TAM meters.

They stated they were willing to manipulate TAM ratings in Mumbai. They showed their identity cards and represented themselves as TAM employees. They also showed TAM manuals to the representatives of NDTV and explained how the meters operate, and the number of meters /areas that they looked after. They were also aware of NDTV’s ratings. They had been in touch with NDTV representative as mentioned above, therefore, during the meeting they insisted upon NDTV’s permission to activate the system at the earliest so that NDTV could see prompt results of high TRPs as promised by these persons. They claimed to have effected manipulations in the past for other channels and were willing provide the same “services” for “any” channel that was ready to pay the demanded consideration (bribe). They were confident that they could triple channel ratings of NDTV in Mumbai over a period of two to three weeks in the required target group. They stated they had direct access to homes and visited those homes periodically (at least 3 to 4 times a week) and were in a position to easily influence what the households watched/viewed. They said by paying a bribe of $250 to $500 per household per month, the TAM households could be made to watch only those channels which they insisted upon…”

“On April 11 and 12, 2012 a video was shown to Bob (Robert Messemer, Chief Security Officer, The Nielsen Company, Schaumburg, IL) by NDTV officials which categorically conveyed to and persuaded Bob that NDTV’s repeated claims since 2004 were true and that the TAM system was corrupt and required immediate attention. He admitted to having a wholly new appreciation for NDTV’s concerns, and was convinced that he had not witnessed corruption of this level previously anywhere. He admitted to being amazed by the degree of networking and feedback loops such consultants appeared to have within the TAM system. He also acknowledged the need for changes in TAM system and personnel from the very top. Bob subsequently asked for a copy of the video. In lieu of the video recording, NDTV sent a redacted transcript to Bob…”

The 194 page plea captures all the communication (oral, on e-mail, etc) between representatives of NDTV, TAM India and other companies associated with TAM India and The Nielsen Company. NDTV obviously feels confident that they more than have a case.

This is going to be a long, hard battle – one that TAM is not going to enjoy. NDTV is only the first of many aggrieved broadcasters to have filed a suit against TAM – but NDTV is, by no means, the only one unhappy with TAM data.

Disclaimer: Firstpost is owned by Network18 that owns CNN-IBN, CNBC-TV18, IBN7, CNBC-Awaaz and other entertainment channels. 

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