NDTV vs TAM: War of words in media gets prolonged

By afaqs! news bureau , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Media Publishing | August 28, 2012
In a press statement, the news broadcaster says that Sir Martin's large team has avoided answering the key questions that the network had asked.

As part of a fresh development, NDTV has once again asked for answers from Sir Martil Sorrell, the CEO of global marketing communications agency WPP, on issues that relate to corruption in television ratings in India.


In a press statement, the news broadcaster said that Sir Martin's large team has avoided answering the key questions that the network had asked. NDTV has asked Sir Martin Sorrell to answer six key questions:

1. Is it true that on April 11, 2012, the head of security for Nielsen, Robert Messemer admitted to severe corruption in the TAM system? And that the head of research, Paul Donato admitted to other severe errors in TAM data and systems?

2. Is it true that Nielsen and Kantar launched their own investigation in January this year, following which they witnessed and verified details about corruption in the system, including audio and video recordings, and statements from a whistleblower?

3. Is it true that the CEO of Kantar, Eric Salama apologized to NDTV at the meeting on April 11, after hearing Messemer, and promised immediate action?

4. Is it true that Sir Martin Sorrell was personally informed about the problems in August 2011, in the presence of several witnesses? What were the specific steps that were taken after this?

5. Is it true that the flawed TAM data continues to be published, despite an assurance that it would be stopped on July 31?

6. Is it true that other broadcasters and NDTV have been pointing to flaws in the TAM system for years? And that the News Broadcasters Association of India has now asked for TAM ratings to be suspended till issues are resolved?

NDTV claims that while it is true that NDTV has suffered extensive damages, the network has consistently focused on helping Nielsen, Kantar and TAM to fix their own systems. The issues with TAM ratings were first raised by NDTV eight years ago, when it was a clear undisputed No. 1 even according to TAM.

It also claims that for several months this year, NDTV worked closely with the highest levels of Nielsen and Kantar, as they investigated their own TAM ratings system in India.

"We didn't breathe a word about it to the press. There was no talk of 'financial settlement'. What we asked was that the TAM system be cleaned up. We first made the threat of legal action on June 4, after it became clear that no meaningful action was being taken. Finally, we had no choice but to file the lawsuit because it was felt that there was no other way to secure real change in the TAM system," NDTV says.

Furthermore, NDTV stated that in its statement on August 25, NDTV's lawyers had made no approach for settlement after the lawsuit was filed and communicated. The statement says, "This is perfectly true. The email from NDTV CEO Vikram Chandra, which WPP has selectively quoted from, was in fact the communication of the lawsuit to Nielsen and Kantar. It was a lengthy mail containing details of the suit, the cause for damages and the reason why it was filed in the USA.

"As is routine in such communications, it also contained an invitation to talk, together with the attached lawsuit. Just as we have been working for a long period together with Nielsen, Kantar and TAM, to repair their system in India."

WPP reacted to this late at night on Monday through an official communique which stated that NDTV queries will be and have been addressed in the proper forum: with the industry, or in the proper court, not in an exchange of media statements. As we have noted several times in previous statements, TAM welcomes the opportunity to address the facts. In the meantime, TAM continues, as it has done in the past, to work to improve its system, with the support and involvement of its many stakeholders and its highly respected management.

The official communique quoted an email from NDTV CEO, Vikram Chandra to WPP's Eric Salama to say that NDTV had put in a request for settlement discussions on 27 July. It said, "Vikram Chandra's email to Salama was very clear in suggesting settlement discussions take place before "[NDTV] proceed with costly litigation".

WPP further stated that it was not unusual for TV stations to seek to blame the measurement of audience data for their falling ratings. The communique noted that NDTV is in the habit of quoting TAM data when it suits it. For example, in NDTV's statement of highlights for the Quarter ended September 30th 2011, NDTV quoted TAM ratings to demonstrate that NDTV Good Times was "the number 1 lifestyle channel in the country as per TAM ratings. Advertising revenue has seen a substantial jump in the second quarter of the year."

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