NEWS17 December 2007

Philippines broadcaster sues AGB Nielsen over ‘bribed’ panellists

AGB Nielsen calls lawsuit ‘disappointing’ as investigation continues

PHILIPPINES— Broadcaster ABS-CBN is suing AGB Nielsen Media Research for producing “erroneous” ratings data, following accusations that a rival TV network bribed panel members to watch different channels.

AGB Nielsen responded saying it was already investigating the allegations against rival broadcaster GMA, and that it was “disappointed” that ABS-CBN had taken legal action rather than giving AGB Nielsen time to complete its probe.

The two firms had been “in constant communication” about the matter since 20 November, AGB Nielsen said, and the contract between them allows “a reasonable period” for the investigation of any data quality issues.

The network is now suing AGB Nielsen for a total of 81 million pesos (£983,416 ), and demanding that it stop releasing ratings until it has checked its panel and can guarantee data integrity. But AGB Nielsen’s general manager Maya Reforma said the company would continue to publish as normal unless it found “hard evidence” that its figures were not accurate.

“AGB Nielsen Media Research is managing this difficult situation in a responsible and professional way with the support of key industry bodies, agencies and advertisers,” said Reforma.

ABS-CBN said in a statement that it had been approached by “someone who confessed that his services were hired in locating and bribing metered households to change the programs that they are watching”. The informant was “one of many” who did the same thing in the city of Bacolod, the company said.

The network did not reveal the entity for whom the informant claimed to have been working, but AGB Nielsen has named GMA as the broadcaster under investigation.

According to the Manila Times, the informant said they followed Nielsen’s fieldworkers to find which households had TV meters, then visited the households to offer them 500 pesos (£6.07 ) per month, plus groceries, to watch different channels – an offer which was “almost always” accepted due to poverty.

ABS-CBN announced the lawsuit to journalists and showed a video of an interview with the informant. The firm said they wanted to bring the matter to the public “in the name of truth”.

Author: Robert Bain