New Delhi Television (NDTV) has issued a lawsuit against the Nielsen Company seeking compensatory and punitive damages from the global research agency.
The case has been brought under the New York State laws on grounds of "negligence, gross negligence, false representations, prima facie tort and negligence per se (based on violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and the Dutch Corporate Governance Code), all of which wrongdoings are centred in New York City, the worldwide operational headquarters of Nielsen."
The lawsuit states that the wrongdoings directly and proximately caused financial injuries to NDTV. The network now wants approximately $580 million for negligence, $810 million for fraud and millions more on a variety of other causes, a total of a minimum $1.3 billion.
The lawsuit has been filed in the state of New York in the US, Nielsen's global operations headquarters, on July 26.
NDTV further accuses that Nielsen, now owned by "sponsors", exhibits 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.
NDTV states that while it initially raised queries with respect to the credibility of TAM data as early as December 2004, it has subsequently become clear that the TAM data in itself was tainted, tampered with and corrupt. Despite countless mails and meetings from 2004 through 2012, between NDTV representatives and Nielsen, Kantar and TAM to redress same, TAM continually released the corrupt data with no steps towards remedying any of the grievances, inconsistencies and corrupt practices pointed out by NDTV. TAM and Nielsen's behaviour was a series of consistent actions that amounted to wilful and knowing acceptance and participation in corrupt acts.
Nielsen, Kantar and TAM, by continuing to provide data that is tainted, have deliberately and illegally profited from such activity and are responsible for the losses suffered, and continuing to be suffered, by NDTV over the last eight years, the channel allegedly stated in the lawsuit.
NDTV claims that a number of independent as well as syndicated surveys, conducted by international firms including Nielsen in the past few years, have consistently demonstrated NDTV 24x7's leadership in the English news market.
However, the viewership data released weekly by TAM in India during those periods shows the news channels of NDTV to exhibit a very low viewership. Such a large discrepancy between survey data and people meter data is statistically impossible, unequivocally indicating manipulation and corruption in the data.
In the lawsuit, NDTV said that it had presented evidences to Nielsen of such corruption wherein senior parties and senior officials promised to make changes. However, NDTV says that all promises to make changes are a "sham" and that bad data continues to get released "recklessly and in pursuit of profits."
NDTV is being represented by attorneys Adam Finkel and Rohit Sabharwal.
In reaction to the above development, it was almost an industry consensus that broadcasters in India and the world over need a robust, reliable research system and analytical tool. "TAM has to present a system which will help decision making through insights that are not only legitimate and pioneering but also add value to the business and in turn the end consumer," they said. However, the experts chose to comment on the issue on conditions of anonymity.
As per an industry insider, the problem lies in powerless stature of TAM. Even if TAM identifies a channel using malpractice like influencing peoplemeter homes, it doesn't have the legal right to take any action against the channel.
Several attempts to contact IBF (Indian Broadcasting Federation, AAAI (Advertising Agencies Association of India), and ISA (Indian Society of Advertisers) officials went futile. Many of the officials who answered the calls declined to comment on this issue. Even TAM officials declined to comment on this issue.