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NDTV, WPP harden stance over lawsuit against TAM

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MUMBAI: News broadcaster New Delhi Television Ltd (NDTV) on Thursday hit back hard at global communications agency WPP, which indirectly owns 50 per cent of TAM Media Research, for threatening defamation proceedings over allegations in a lawsuit against TAM’s faulty television ratings in India.

In a rejoinder to WPP’s statement on Wednesday, NDTV said WPP has made a “silly error” in dismissing NDTV’s lawsuit as “hypothetical” and claiming that the lawsuit has not been served weeks after it was filed in the Supreme Court of New York.

In a rebuttal, NDTV said the service of the lawsuit was made on 10 August in New York, and the normal processes under the Hague Convention are also under way. The Hague Convention relates to serving of judicial and extrajudicial documents abroad in civil or commercial matters, under the Hague Conference, a global inter-governmental organisation.

WPP, on its part, insisted, “Service has not taken place and any suggestion that this has taken place is false. There has been a faulty attempt to serve on one company but nothing on the others at all. No lawyer acting on behalf of any WPP company has made any such statement.”

NDTV filed the lawsuit late last month alleging gross inaction against manipulation of television ratings in India on the part of TAM, its parents AC Nielsen Research Services Private Limited and Kantar Market Research Services Private Ltd, and Kantar’s owner WPP, which is listed on the London Stock Exchange and on Nasdaq.

According to NDTV, the lawyers for Kantar Media Research (UK) have already confirmed to NDTV that the service on his client was acceptable in New York. "In fact, matters have progressed much beyond ‘service‘; the lawyers for Nielsen have been in touch with our lawyers and have requested for an extension. In addition, the CEO of Kantar has been in touch with us and has acknowledged receiving the complaint. NDTV has affidavits to substantiate this," NDTV said.

WPP, in an email response to Indiantelevision.com, said, “In fact, Kantar Media (Research) UK is not even named as a party to any lawsuit.” WPP is the owner of Kantar. WPP is right as the only Kantar group company named as defendant in the NDTV lawsuit is Kantar Media Research.

In a retort for terming its lawsuit hypothetical, the news broadcaster said it is "baffled and amused by the PR effort issued by WPP. PR is clearly the main aim, as the WPP statement contains a number of legal flaws."

"We suggest WPP refrain from using their massive PR machine to make baseless threats against NDTV. Instead we request that WPP should focus on honestly fixing (for want of a better word!) their badly damaged and dishonest (television) ratings system in India - which in their statement they acknowledge they have control over and is their responsibility," NDTV said.

On Wednesday, WPP had said it has instructed its lawyers to consider filing defamation suit against NDTV and that it along with its operating companies – Kantar and TAM – were also in the process of filing an application in New York to have the lawsuit dismissed.

“We are taking the unusual step of proceeding to dismiss the hypothetical lawsuit, despite the lack of any service, simply due to the attempted "trial by media" which has been generated by the (unserved) lawsuit. In any event, there is no merit in the purported claims, nor do the US courts have any jurisdiction to hear any such claims. Any claim should be made properly, in India, in front of the Indian courts, which are more than capable of properly hearing any valid claim,” WPP said.

WPP, in a teaser, said NDTV appears to be blaming their poor financial performance on the ratings. “NDTV ‘s financial state shows a dramatic decline, with its market capitalisation declining from around $800 million in early 2008 to around $60 million today (23 August). Over the same period NDTV‘s share price has declined from a high of Rs 512.70 to around Rs 50 today. NDTV is operating in an extremely competitive market, and its competitors have also been in a difficult position, NDTV‘s decline is not down to any perceived failures in TAM data.”

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