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Kantar takes TV rating issue to Delhi HC; ordered to file affidavit on shareholding
NEW DELHI: As widely anticipated, the government’s television rating agency guidelines have been challenged in the Delhi High Court. Kantar Market Research Services (KMRS), the WPP company which is a 50 per cent stakeholder in TAM Media Research, has filed a writ petition challenging these guidelines.
The petition was filed on 20 January four days after the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) had notified the TV rating agency guidelines, which, among other things, restricts a company from owning more than 10 per cent in both rating agencies and broadcasters/advertisers/
TAM, which was widely believed to take legal recourse, and Nielsen, the other stakeholder in TAM, have not moved the court.
When the matter came up for hearing today, a bench comprising Justice Manmohan directed Kantar to file an affidavit detailing its shareholding in any advertising/broadcasting companies either directly or indirectly in a week.
The bench also directed KMRS and its director Thomas Puliyel to mention “the Indian companies in which the petitioner (Kantar) holds shareholding”.
“The affidavit would also categorically state that none of the aforesaid companies in which Kantar have shareholding in excess of ten per cent has done any business for any entity which was involved in any rating exercise done by TAM Media Research. If that is not so, then detail of such instances would be given,” the bench said in its order.
As expected, KMSR has contested the cross-media restriction prescribed in the guidelines, contending that the restrictions would result in closure of TAM and force Kantar to sell its stake in the rating agency.
Kantar also issued an advertorial in a leading pink daily hinting that it would comply with the guidelines minus the cross-media ownership restriction. The company also stated that TAM is prepared to scale up its panel size to 20,000 plus people meters as suggested by the government.
An IMRB spokesperson declined to comment on the issue.
A broadcast professional with experience in legal and regulatory issues pointed out that KMSR would have sought a stay on the guidelines by challenging its Constitutional validity. “The only way they will get a stay is if they challenge the Constitutional validity of the guidelines,” the expert stated.
According to another expert with experience in handling such matters, Kantar could seek relief from the HC by stressing that the guidelines are in violation of Articles 14 and 19 of the Constitution and infringe on the company’s legal right to earn a livelihood.
“They can challenge the guidelines by arguing that the government was acting in an arbitrary manner and did not give fair hearing to TAM, which has been in the business for such a long time. They can also contend that the cross-media ownership guideline is directed solely at TAM,” the legal expert stated.
The whole industry would be waiting with bated breath for the next turn of events in the case. If Kantar fails to get any relief from the HC, then the industry will have to function without ratings for the next six to eight months.
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