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TAM owner WPP speaks up, threatens defamation suit against NDTV

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MUMBAI: WPP, the world’s largest communications services group, has threatened to file defamation proceedings against New Delhi Television Ltd (NDTV) for offensive allegations made by the Indian news broadcaster in its lawsuit in the New York Supreme Court.

NDTV has filed the lawsuit alleging gross inaction against manipulation of television ratings in India by TAM Media Research, 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.

NDTV has sought $810 million as compensation for the loss in revenues it has suffered over the years because of manipulated viewership ratings and $580 million in penalty for negligence by Nielsen and Kantar officials.

“In the light of these circumstances, WPP is also giving active consideration to issuing proceedings against NDTV for defamation and has instructed its lawyers accordingly,” WPP said in a statement on Wednesday.

WPP and its operating companies – Kantar and TAM -- are in the process of filing an “immediate application” in the New York court to strike out the law suit, which it has dismissed as “hypothetical”. It said it will also be seeking costs for having to do so.

TAM had so far declined to comment as the matter was in the court.

WPP said, in the light of the media comments following the filing of the NDTV suit, “it feels it is appropriate to comment on the lawsuit.”

WPP pointed out that the lawsuit has not been served on WPP, nor on any of WPP’s operating companies, referred to in the NDTV lawsuit. “In any event, there is no merit, whatsoever, in any of the claims made in the hypothetical Law Suit relating to the WPP Parties, nor do the courts of New York have any jurisdiction to hear any such claims,” the WPP statement said.

Referring to the six-point action plan proposed by TAM last week, WPP said, “As recent developments indicate, TAM is committed to working with the industry to continuously improve the use of technology, coverage and transparency. TAM has taken and continues to take stringent measures to protect the panel against repeated attempts at tampering by currently unknown parties and has recently agreed a series of additional steps with the industry to remove any question marks about the quality and reliability of the TAM data.”

The six steps outlined by TAM include appointment of a security officer and a security agency, expansion in the number of peoplemeters in six top metros, an industry review of the research processes, independent audit of outlier homes, faster rotation of the peoplemeter homes and setting up of an internal audit team.

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