NDTV has sued the global TV rating agency Nielsen for billions of dollars for allegedly manipulating viewership data, a media report said here.
In a 194-page lawsuit filed in a New York court late last week, NDTV accused Nielsen of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by manipulating viewership data in favour of channels that are willing to provide bribes to its officials.
NDTV says rampant manipulation of viewership data has been going on for eight years, and when presented with evidence earlier this year, top executives at Nielsen pledged to make changes. But NDTV says these promises have been false ones, The Hollywoodreporter said.
NDTV is now demanding significant damages: at least USD 810 million for fraud, at least USD 580 million for negligence and hundreds of millions more for a range of causes of action including tortious interference and breach of fiduciary duty.
Reacting to the case, a Nielsen spokesperson said the company "has a longstanding policy of not commenting on pending legal matters."
In New Delhi, when contacted, NDTV declined to comment on the issue.
NDTV is also looking to punish Nielsen's top corporate officers and demanding that the company essentially be kicked out of the country.
"The lawsuit contains merely allegations against the venerable ratings research company that operates in more than 100 countries, earns more than USD 5 billion a year and has been around since 1923. But if proved, they could be very serious," the report said.
In the complaint, NDTV targets TAM (Television Audience Measurement), a joint venture between Nielsen and Kantar Media Research. NDTV says the two companies, each named as defendants, once were rivals but decided to operate jointly within India to monopolise the market for TV viewership data.
The board of TAM is said to be composed of officials from the two companies, the report said.
As a result, NDTV says that Nielsen's officers have been "recklessly disregarding" their responsibilities to laws and their customers and that the cost-cutting measures have been one of the main reasons behind manipulated TV viewership data.
"The primary reason that data could be so easily manipulated in India was due to the persistent refusal of Nielsen and Kantar to provide adequate funds for TAM to increase its sample size and invest in the systems/quality/security procedures," says the lawsuit.