New Delhi Television Limited (NDTV) has sued The Nielsen Co. for allegedly manipulating TAM ratings data in favour of broadcasters who 'paid' money. Filing a detailed 194-page suit in New York's Supreme Court on July 26, the network has sought billions of dollars in damages from the ratings company.
NDTV says it was made to appear that fewer people were watching NDTV channels than actually were. It has accused Nielsen and Kantor of operating worldwide through a deliberately complex web of subsidiaries and joint ventures and abusing the power of TAM's monopoly in India.
When asked for a response on the developments by Network 18 group's e-publication Firstpost which has a detailed report, TAM issued the following statement: "TAM India, a 50:50 joint venture between Kantar Media and Nielsen, doesn't comment on any litigation."
"Nielsen's wrongdoings, including, but not limited to, negligence, gross negligence, false representations, prima facie tort and negligence per se (based on violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and the Dutch Corporate Governance Code), have had catastrophic effects on customers, on the television industry, on advertisers and on and viewers in the US and overseas," reads the suit. NDTV wants $580 million for negligence, a minimum of $810 million for fraud and millions more on other counts including legal fees.
On April 3, 2012, a meeting was held between the representatives of NDTV, namely, Rahul Sood, Sidharth Barhate and Anand Mohan Jha, and two field staff employees of TAM (one provided his first name, while the other did not disclose his name) at Ramada Plaza Hotel, Juhu, Mumbai. The TAM employees revealed that they were employed in Mumbai to look after, and collect data from, TAM meters.
They stated they were willing to manipulate TAM ratings in Mumbai. They showed their identity cards and represented themselves as TAM employees. They also showed TAM manuals to the representatives of NDTV and explained how the meters operate, and the number of meters /areas that they looked after. They were also aware of NDTV's ratings. They had been in touch with NDTV representative as mentioned above, therefore, during the meeting they insisted upon NDTV's permission to activate the system at the earliest so that NDTV could see prompt results of high TRPs as promised by these persons. They claimed to have effected manipulations in the past for other channels and were willing provide the same "services" for "any" channel that was ready to pay the demanded consideration (bribe). They were confident that they could triple channel ratings of NDTV in Mumbai over a period of two to three weeks in the required target group. They stated they had direct access to homes and visited those homes periodically (at least 3 to 4 times a week) and were in a position to easily influence what the households watched/viewed. They said by paying a bribe of $250 to $500 per household per month, the TAM households could be made to watch only those channels which they insisted upon"
In the current system the Television ratings are calculated through a sample space of 8150 homes. This increase in number happened from 5000 homes when the number of TV households grew from 60 million on 2005 to 130 Million in 2012. Only a fraction of this section is said to watch English channels, increasing the potential for distortion through deliberate manipulation.
NDTV in its law suit also stated that it had demanded the increase in samples to atleast 30000 by the end of the year and accused the parent firms Neilsen and Kantar of being unwilling to make an increase in their investment due to vested interests.
Sources from TAM however in their defence point out that broadcasters themselves are unwilling to pay for better research. They insist that at the current levels of subscription the fee paid to access data by the channels, advertisers and media planners, it will be hard to increase the number of respondents.
With this scenario taking shape, one is yet to see if it will open a Pandora's box and bring out other hidden issues. There are various shows in India that are widely watched and enjoyed by a varied set of audience. This however doesnt reflect in the TRPs at all times disappointing viewers. Various shows from time to time have also been pulled off air because of low ratings as TRPs have a direct bearing on the longitivity of a show. It is now to be seen how this action would effect the currently running system!
(Sources: IBN 7 and The Hindu)