NDTV seeks clear answers, asks WPP to stop obfuscating real issues

MUMBAI: In typical NDTV reportage style, the news broadcaster has fired a fresh salvo at Sir Martin Sorrell seeking answers from the CEO of global marketing communications agency WPP on issues that relate to corruption in televisions ratings in India.

NDTV (New Delhi Television Ltd), which filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court of New York on 26 July 2012 against TAM, Nielsen, Kantar and WPP, has sought to know why TAM has not stopped publishing its ratings from 1 July despite assurances by Thomas Puliyel, President IMRB International, a subsidiary of Kantar.

TAM Media Research, which is owned equally by WPP (through its subsidiaries including Kantar) and Nielsen, is the only agency providing the television ratings service in India.

The news broadcaster also sought to know if Sorrell was aware that Kantar CEO Eric Salama had apologised to NDTV at a meeting on 11 April 2012 after hearing Robert Messemer, head of security at Nielsen, admit to “severe corruption” in TAM system.

The past few days have seen a ping pong match of accusations and clarifications between WPP and NDTV, after WPP first issued a statement on 22 August saying it is considering filing a defamation suit against NDTV and would also be moving the court in New York for dismissal of the NDTV lawsuit arguing India was the right jurisdiction for hearing the NDTV case.

After WPP disclosed contents of emails written by NDTV’s Vikram Chandra and Eric Salama, NDTV on Monday evening issued another statement demanding answers from Martin Sorrell.

Reproduced below is the statement from NDTV:


The past few days have been a master class in how to obfuscate the real issues behind the TAM ratings row.

Sir Martin‘s large team has avoided answering the key questions we had asked. We‘d like to ask again if Sir Martin is aware of some of these facts. Here are just 6 of the real key questions:

1. Is it true that on the 11th of April 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 apologised to NDTV at the meeting on April 11, after hearing Mr. 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 the 31st July?

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?

While it is true that NDTV has suffered extensive damages, we have consistently been 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 number one even according to TAM.

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 there was no other way to secure real change in the TAM system.

In our statement two days back we said NDTV‘s lawyers have made no approach for settlement after the lawsuit was filed and communicated. 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.

NDTV has no desire to get into a prolonged trial by media with WPP.

Our key intent in all these years has been to secure the cleaning up of the TAM ratings system. That desire is clearly shared by just about every stakeholder in the Indian broadcasting sector, and we are deeply grateful for the extensive support that this demand has received.

We would now urge WPP to avoid a further obfuscation of the real issues and to turn its attention to the basic facts that are contained in our lawsuit. (End of NDTV Statement)

The news broadcaster‘s intent has been to extract solutions that would clean up the TV ratings system in India. And in this overriding concern, NDTV feels it has extensive support of the broadcasting sector in India.

Also Read:

The fight gets vengeful; WPP discloses Vikram Chandra‘s email

NDTV-WPP spat gets ugly; NDTV reveals Kantar CEO’s email sought end to litigation

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