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NDTV hits back after WPP threatens defamation suit

The Indian broadcaster has dismissed WPP's claims, saying its "statement contains a number of legal flaws".

Anusha Subramanian | August 24, 2012 | Updated 09:58 IST

NDTV has dismissed a statement by media communications firm WPP about their ongoing legal tussle as PR waffle, saying, "PR is clearly the main aim, as the WPP statement contains a number of legal flaws."

In its press release, issued on Wednesday, WPP had stated that it had not received any "valid service" of the billion-dollar lawsuit filed in the US by NDTV against TAM India and its global parent firms, which include Nielsen and Kantar. It even threatened to launch defamation proceedings against NDTV.

NDTV had sought an injunction against publication of television ratings by TAM, saying the data was inaccurate. It had also sought millions in compensation for revenue losses and alleged negligence by the ratings agency and its parent firms.

"In the light of recent media comment, WPP feels it is appropriate to comment on the recent hypothetical lawsuit said to have been issued in New York, by New Delhi Television Limited (NDTV) against WPP and other parties. Despite comments in the media to the contrary, the hypothetical lawsuit has not, as of today, been served on WPP, nor on any of WPP's operating companies referred to in the hypothetical lawsuit."

The WPP statement goes on to declare that there is no merit in any of the claims made in NDTV's "hypothetical" lawsuit, and that the courts of New York have no jurisdiction to hear such claims. "Despite the lack of any valid service, the WPP Parties are in the process of issuing an immediate application to strike out the hypothetical lawsuit and will be seeking their costs in so doing."

In its response, NDTV said: "...while they claim that the suit has not been served, they surely know, or should know, that service was indeed made on the 10th of August in New York, and processes under the Hague Convention are also underway as is the normal procedure."

The statement goes on to add: "...lawyers for Kantar Media Research (UK), have already confirmed to NDTV that the service on their client was acceptable in New York. In fact, matters have progressed much beyond 'service'; the lawyers for Nielsen have been in touch with our lawyers and have requested for an extension. In addition, the CEO of Kantar has been in touch with us and has acknowledged receiving the complaint. NDTV has affidavits to substantiate this."

Rubbishing WPP's claims, the statement also notes: "It is indeed strange that they term the suit as hypothetical as it is available for everyone to read in full on the website of the Supreme Court of New York. In fact it appears as though WPP must have read it too as they refer to many details in the NDTV complaint and respond with several false denials."

Meanwhile, in a letter to Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni, industry group News Broadcasters Association has asked for an independent audit "to evaluate and measure the TAM systems and make the audit report public". Effective corrective steps and a robust and transparent system were also demanded. In her letter to the minister, the association's Secretary General Annie Joseph also asked that TAM be directed "to suspend reporting data until the above is undertaken".

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