Indian broadcaster NDTV is suing Nielsen and Kantar Media Research over claims that staff at the firms’ joint venture TAM took bribes in exchange for overstating ratings. According to the suit, this practice has damaged NDTV’s business to the tune of around $810m in the past eight years.
In the case, filed in the New York Supreme Court, Indian broadcaster NDTV (New Delhi Television) accuses Nielsen and Kantar of violating the anti-bribery clause in the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, through their TAM (Television Audience Measurement) joint venture in India.
NDTV alleges that staff at TAM India took the bribes in order to falsify the ratings data, and says that at a meeting it attended with several of these field staff, they claimed they could influence what panellist households watched if they were paid between $250 to $500 per household per month.
The TAM staff are alleged to have told NDTV that they were willing to manipulate the ratings for any channel willing to pay the bribe, and added that they were confident that they could triple NDTV’s channel ratings in Mumbai over a period of two to three weeks in the required target group.
‘Nielsen, Kantar and TAM are liable for indulging in corrupt practices by manipulating viewership data in favor of channels that are willing to covertly provide monetary inducements/payments/bribes to TAM officials,’ NDTV says in its 194-page statement.
The broadcaster complains that after making Nielsen’s CEO David Calhoun and Kantar’s CEO Eric Salama aware of the issue, TAM continued to publish data in India. NDTV asked the two firms to discontinue publication of the data until there was an increase in sample size from 8,000 to 30,000, but says that ‘no such remedial measures have been taken’, and ‘corrupt data’ is still being published.
‘Nielsen and Kantar, despite their explicit promises to address such rampant corruption, have negligently, deliberately and wilfully, failed and refused to discontinue publication of corrupted data, failed to increase sample size and failed to increase security measures, all of which they knew they should have done,’ the suit continues.
NDTV is seeking $580m on 42 counts, including negligence, gross negligence, and false representations. A source at Nielsen told DRNO that the firm believes the case is ‘without merit’, while Kantar parent company WPP said that the firm’s lawyers are reviewing the case, adding: ‘We are satisfied that there is no merit in any claim against WPP.’