TAM shareholder Kantar takes Indian govt to court on TV ratings guidelines

MUMBAI: So Indian TV ratings agency TAM Media will not go down without a fight. At least if one goes by the action of one of its shareholders  Kantar Market Research Services. The latter approached the Delhi High Court on 20 January, filing a writ petition against the Union of India. The writ petition states that the government’s TV ratings agency registration regulations have put the existence of its venture TAM in jeopardy, and that too after it has been operating in India for more than 15 years.

Diya Kapur, who appeared on behalf of Kantar - during the hearing today - appealed that TAM has been in the business for a very long time and the new guidelines on cross holding restrictions will mean that it will have to go out of business.

Kantar Market Reserach Services Pvt Ltd, a shareholder of television rating agency TAM Media, was today directed by the Delhi High Court to file in a week an affidavit detailing its shareholding in any advertising/ broadcasting companies either directly or indirectly.


A bench of justice Manmohan directed Kantar and its director Thomas Puliyel, who have challenged the guidelines for television rating agencies, to also mention "the Indian companies in which the petitoner (Kantar) holds shareholding."

High Court judge Justice Manmohan then asked Kantar to furnish documents relating to the shareholding pattern in TAM. "This would be in the form of an affidavit detailing its shareholding in any broadcasting firm/advertising agency, either directly or indirectly.The affidavit would also mention any other Indian company in which the petitioner holds any shareholding. It would also state that none of the aforesaid companies in which Kantar have shareholding in excess of 10 per cent has done business for any entity which was involved in any ratings exercise done by TAM. If that is not so, then the details of such instances shall be given," the single member bench said.

The court gave Kantar Media a week to come back with the documents and adjourned the hearing for 29 January.

But already industry sources are questioning why did Kantar Market Research Services decide to approach the courts alone? Why did TAM Media not do so? And why did only one of the two shareholders seek legal redressal? Why wasn't AC Nielsen also a party to the case against the Union of India?  These are questions to which has no answers to right now. But keep watching this space for further developments.

Agencies and advertisers will be too. Various stakeholders - who need ratings to know how their money is being spent - have been urging TAM Media to take legal recourse as they are quite averse to a situation of a TV ratings dark period. But with now one of its stakeholders taking steps to try and remedy the situation, they have some hope.

The ministry of information and broadcasting is quite clear that the course has been set and there is no going back. Speaking to MIB officials have been quite clear that they don't want to be seen favouring anybody - especially TAM. "Industry and TAM have been given a long time to do course corrections on the ratings," said a MIB official. "More than half a decade. Why did they not do so? Why complain now? In fact, we did not want a ratings blackout; based on industry feedback earlier - they had said BARC ratings would start rolling by March 2014 - we went easy on the TV ratings regulations and got government approval in mid-January 2014. TAM had 30 days to shape up; if it did not do so, then there would be a minimal rating blackout period, with BARC rolling out its ratings."

In fact, even as the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had recommended a tranistion period of six months for TAM Media, the MIB had in its recommendations said zero days, but that was finally extended to 30 days by the Cabinet.

The MIB has stated that it will take on any legal challenges, which are posed against the regulations.  Industry executives can expect some skirmishes ahead - at least in the courts.


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