Global advertising company WPP, which is among several marketing firms sued by NDTV over alleged manipulation of viewership data, has termed the lawsuit as “hypothetical” and is considering initiating defamation proceedings against the Indian news channel.

Responding to WPP's threat, NDTV said the global advertising company should first focus on “honestly fixing” their “badly damaged” and “dishonest” ratings system in India.

NDTV had last month filed a 194-page lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court accusing WPP, ratings company Nielsen, TAM Media and Kantar among others 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 said rampant manipulation of viewership data had been going on for eight years, and when presented with evidence earlier this year, top executives at Nielsen pledged to make changes but those promises turned out to be false.

Responding to the lawsuit, London-based WPP said “there is no merit, whatsoever, in any of the claims made in the hypothetical lawsuit relating to the WPP parties, nor do the courts of New York have any jurisdiction to hear any such claims.

“In the light of these circumstances, WPP is also giving active consideration to issuing proceedings against NDTV for defamation and has instructed its lawyers accordingly,” the firm said in a statement on Wednesday.

NDTV has demanded significant damages, including at least $810 million for fraud, $580 million for negligence and hundreds of million dollars more for a range of causes.

WPP said neither it nor any of its operating companies named in the lawsuit have yet been served with any court documents relating to the suit.

“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.”

NDTV hits back

Asking London-based WPP not to make baseless threats against it, NDTV in a statement said that it “is baffled and amused by the PR effort by WPP. PR is clearly the main aim, as the WPP statement contains a number of legal flaws.”

“We suggest WPP refrain from using their massive PR machine to make baseless threats against NDTV. Instead we request that WPP should focus on honestly fixing (for want of a better word!) their badly damaged and dishonest ratings system in India — which in their statement they acknowledge they have control over and is their responsibility,” it added.

NDTV’s reaction came after WPP, which is among several marketing firms sued by it over alleged manipulation of viewership data, termed the lawsuit as “hypothetical” and said it was considering initiating defamation proceedings against the Indian news channel.

“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,” the statement said.