The Delhi High Court on 29 January dashed Kantar Market Research Service’s (KMRS) hopes of redress by refusing to stay the TV rating agency guidelines issued by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB).
The hearing in the matter has been adjourned till 11 February, just four days ahead of the 30-day deadline to comply with the guidelines.
The HC has issued notices to the Union Government and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to file counter affidavits within a week.
The News Broadcasters Association (NBA) has also impleaded in the matter stating that the guidelines need to be looked at generously by the bench since it would make audience measurement much more effective.
The bench observed that it could not interfere in the policy-making process. “We must show some respect for the statutory body that formed policy guidelines,” the bench observed. It also noted that prima facie there seemed nothing wrong with the guidelines.
The bench also offered to grant more time to Kantar to rework its shareholding pattern by extending the 30-day deadline. However, Kantar refused to accept the offer contending that its main grouse is against the cross-media restriction mentioned in the guidelines.
The HC was, however, unwilling to pass an order against the guidelines only on the ground that the cross-media restriction would put Kantar’s existence under threat.
A senior media lawyer, on condition of anonymity, opined that Kantar has not given proper reasons as to why it wants a stay on the guidelines apart from the fact that the 30-day time limit is way too less for it to comply with these guidelines.
Another lawyer said that the 11 February hearing will seal the fate of Kantar and TAM since 15 February is the last day for existing agencies (read TAM) to comply with the rating guidelines. “If Kantar fails to get a stay on 11 February, then it will mean the end of TAM. As things stand, TAM has to comply with the guidelines since there is no stay in place,” the lawyer stated.
KMSR also submitted an affidavit containing its shareholding pattern in TAM Media Research. In the affidavit, KMSR has acknowledged that it has more than 10 per cent equity holding in TAM Media Research, which has Nielsen India as its other shareholder.
The HC had on 22 January asked KMSR to file an affidavit detailing its shareholding in any advertising/broadcasting companies either directly or indirectly in a week.
KMSR had contested the cross-media restriction prescribed in the guidelines, arguing that the restrictions would result in closure of TAM and force Kantar to sell its stake in the rating agency.
As per the guidelines issued by TRAI and which were approved by the Cabinet, no single entity
can own more than 10 per cent in both rating agencies and broadcasters/advertisers/advertising agencies at the same time.
If Kantar refuses to offload its stake in TAM, then the TV rating agency faces the danger of being disqualified from operating in the Indian market. Kantar had recently hinted that it was willing to follow the guidelines minus the cross-media restriction.