After nearly a month of silence, the world’s largest holding company WPP that is amongst one of the defendants in the lawsuit NDTV has filed against TAM Media Research, its parent companies Nielsen and Kantar and others, broke its silence on the NDTV lawsuit alleging corruption and other charges against TAM.
Television ratings data from TAM Media Research is the currency that the advertising industry in India trades on. NDTV’s lawsuit was followed by intensive media reportage in various markets excerpting portions of NDTV’s preliminary statement filed in the New York State Court on July 26, 2012. Most of the reports, by virtue of what was available in public domain, quoted the claims made by NDTV and the various accusations that had formed part of the report detailing the charges of corruption, negligence and such others.
There were no comments from Nielsen or WPP and its companies at the time.
Even as the industry was still soaking in and responding to the charges that were made by NDTV, which is considered to be one of the most respected and serious broadcasters in India, in its lawsuit, the bigger shock was WPP’s response statement that was finally on August 22, 2012.
WPP called the lawsuit “hypothetical”, as it was yet not served to any of the WPP companies. NDTV has stated that the lawsuit was served on August 10, 2012.
Replying to exchange4media's queries, Martin Sorrell, CEO, WPP maintained, “No lawsuit has been served on any WPP company. There has been a faulty attempt to serve on one company but nothing on the others.” Since there is therefore no “lawsuit” to comment on, WPP has dubbed the lawsuit hypothetical.
WPP’s statement also said that the court in New York, where NDTV has filed this case, does not have any jurisdiction to hear any such claims. Elaborating further on this, Sorrell remarked, “There is no nexus to the United States. The fact that some executives of companies related to TAM India are US based, does not give rise to US jurisdiction. Any claim should be made properly, in India, in front of the Indian courts, who are more than competent to hear any claim.”
Sorrell’s point that the case should be raised in India was also echoed by Sam Balsara, Chairman and Managing Director, Madison World in an earlier conversation, where Balsara had said that the case ideally is for Indian courts because the cause is in India.
One question that many industry leaders in India had posed to WPP was that when media reports of NDTV's lawsuit had broken on July 26, 2012 why did WPP wait for nearly a month to issue a statement. Sorrell explained the reason was that no claim has been served. “However, despite the fact that no lawsuit is actually underway, we feel that it is appropriate to comment now, to correct this misconception. We are unhappy about the ensuing ‘trial by media’ which has been generated by NDTV, rather than a real attempt to address any issues with TAM data,” said Sorrell.
He added, “As we have said, TAM is committed to working with the industry to continuously improve TAM data and has recently agreed a series of additional steps with the industry. WPP is listening to the views of all industry stakeholders and will be very supportive of whatever changes the industry feels are necessary. We would be very happy to work with the possible BARC (Broadcast Audience Research Council) structure if it is put in place: we work extremely well with similar bodies all over the world and would be happy to do so in India.”
WPP Parties are in the process of issuing an application to strike out the “hypothetical” lawsuit. When asked by when was this going to happen, Sorrell replied, “Imminently.”