Just when one thought that NRS 2005 had been finally accepted by the industry, the Indian Express Group has taken the National Readership Studies Council to court over the readership numbers of its Marathi daily, Loksatta. A suit has been filed in the Bombay High Court and NRSC is expected to revert within a month.
Said Vaidehi Thakar, Director, Corporate Legal, Indian Express Group, “The Loksatta figures NRS threw up are completely misrepresentative. The report says we have lost over one-third of readers, but in fact, our circulation figures have gone up, though marginally.”
To put things in perspective, according to NRS 2005, Loksatta, with a readership of 1,614,000, has seen a decrease in readership by 303,000 (31 per cent). The Express Group has been dissatisfied over this ever since the first release of NRS data. Consequently, the group has brought up the issue several times with the Council but, as Express’ Group Brand Head, Shankar Rao Shinde, put it, “They failed to convince us.”
The group has asked for an injunction, restraining any further publicising of Loksatta’s readership figures quoted in NRS 2005. Thakar explained that under the new Civil Procedure Court (CPC) rule, NRS would have to provide a written statement within a month. The case was filed last week.
Giving a more detailed picture, Shinde informed that the study indicated a drop in readership of Loksatta’s Pune edition by 21 per cent and Nagpur edition by 32 per cent. Aurangabad and Bhiwandi editions also showed drops of 21 per cent and 74 per cent, respectively.
He further said, “We have met with NRSC on several occasions, at one time all members of the group, right from the Director to all department heads were present, to comprehend their explanation and all they spoke about was their methodology, which wasn’t convincing enough.”
The complaint doesn’t end here. Shinde divulged that another aspect that concerned the group was that the study had no back check from industry people. “Researches often have a back check from the industry, which reinforces their accuracy – that just isn’t the case here. All this put together led us to take them to court.”
NRSC did face problems when the data was initially released and, consequently, a number of publications like Business Standard were withdrawn on account of a high margin of errors.
When contacted by exchange4media, Sam Balsara, Chairman, NRSC, said, “I am surprised that this has happened. In NRS 2005 we have taken an undertaking from all our subscribers that they cannot go to court. In case of any dissatisfaction, there is a procedure to follow.”
He further said, “We haven’t got any legal notice yet or heard anything about this development from anyone. I cannot offer any other comment on this matter at this point.”