Published On: Wed, Aug 1st, 2012

Nielsen sued for manipulating TV ratings, taking bribes

New Delhi Television Limited, India’s oldest and largest news network, has lobbed a legal grenade at The Nielsen Company.

photo/Infrogmation of New Orleans via wikimedia commons

In a 194-page lawsuit filed in New York court late last week, NDTV accuses Nielsen of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by manipulating viewership data in favor of channels that are willing to provide bribes to its officials.

According to NDTV, 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.

The Indian news giant says these promises have been false ones.

The Indian company is now seeking billions of dollars in damages from Nielsen, looking to punish its top corporate officers and demanding that Nielsen 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 $5 billion a year and has been around since 1923. But if proved, they could be very serious. A Nielsen spokesperson said the company “has a longstanding policy of not commenting on pending legal matters.”

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 monopolize the market for TV viewership data. The board of TAM is said to be composed of officials from the two companies.

Nielsen is described as a company that is now owned by “sponsors” — private-equity firms that include KKR, The Blackstone Group, The Carlyle Group, Thomas H. Lee Partners, Alpinvest Partners, Hellman & Friedman and Centerview Partners.

These firms are said to be executing an “exit strategy” out of the Nielsen business and, as a result, have ordered Nielsen directors and CEO David Calhoun to make cost-cutting and cost-avoidance measures to maintain their share price in the short term.

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.

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About the Author

- Writer and Co-Founder of The Global Dispatch, Brandon has been covering news, offering commentary for years, beginning professionally in 2003 on Crazed Fanboy before expanding into other blogs and sites. Appearing on several radio shows, Brandon has hosted Dispatch Radio, written his first novel (The Rise of the Templar) and completed the three years Global University program in Ministerial Studies to be a pastor. To Contact Brandon email [email protected] ATTN: BRANDON


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