The hearing in the writ petition filed by Kantar Media in the TV ratings guidelines case has been deferred to February 11, 2014. The stakes involved have now become higher as stakeholders were expecting an “easy” stay order in favour of Kantar.
As per senior industry sources present during the hearing, Kantar’s counsel Harish Salve raised the following points in support of the ratings agency:
1. The company Kantar has been in existence for the last 37 years in different countries. If it operates in an uncoordinated manner, it will itself get kicked out of the market. It has been operational in India over the last 15 years and not everything could be wrong as perceived. Asking such a company to dilute its stake in one month would be unconstitutional.
2. In case Kantar is not given a stay, there will be an imminent ratings blackout, which will not be healthy for the dynamics of the industry.
3. TAM has been serving the industry for the last 15 years. Its sustainability should be decided by the industry and market forces and the Government should not try to micromanage the industry.
According to some experts, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) would raise the following issues against Kantar:
• Issue of substantial cross-holding by a foreign entity in the domestic business of television ratings.
• Reluctance of the existing rating agency over addressing the key issues in the ratings mechanism and sample size over the last 10 years.
Industry stakeholders who were optimistic over the stay order on Kantar on the issue of cross-holding have agreed that the case is strong on both the sides. “Although, it is unlikely, but Kantar might get a stay for next four months. “But, I also believe that to be a very grim possibility,” remarked a senior news broadcaster, who wished not to be quoted.
Sahib Chopra, CEO, Manoranjan TV, a regional channel said, “I don’t think Kantar is likely to get a stay. Broadcasters have long demanded a robust ratings methodology. Now, when the Ministry has acted, there is a rare chance for Kantar or for that matter TAM to sustain.”
The News Broadcasters Association (NBA) was also a respondent in the case. NBA insisted that TAM’s sample size was too small and does not serve the interest of the industry. NBA was a respondent along with TRAI and the Union of India.
Observers and people closely related to the case are cautious over how things will pan out in the future. A senior member representing the advertising community said, “It would not be an intelligent step to predict the outcome in such a scenario. I admit that after today, the cases have become strong on both the sides. We would see how things shape up and accordingly decide what to do.”
Interestingly, marketers and advertisers are more concerned about the outcome of the case as it would affect their budget allocation directly. Therefore, all stakeholders have stopped answering in the affirmative and are following a policy of wait and watch.