Mediaah! Why is ASCI mum on CNBCTV18-ET Now issue?

18 Jun,2015

By Pradyuman Maheshwari

The stakes are high in the news television business. The winner – in this the leader of the pack – generally takes it all – and given that it’s not an easy business to run, there are just too many claims on counter-claims on which is the #1 channel.

Earlier this month, ET Now released large ads in The Times of India claiming it’s the No 1.

On Monday, June 15, we received a mail from a PR agency claiming to represent CNBC-TV18 that ASCI asks ET Now to withdraw the misleading ads.

Quality journalism requires some no-brainer rigour. You don’t trust the source even it may otherwise be credible. If Company X says it has won a case in the courts, you want to see the Court Order. Ditto with an FIR with the cops.

But for some, publishing is pure commerce. Like that phrase we’ve been hearing in the ongoing political drama: quid pro quo! This is not the time to shout out loud about the rigour we follow. On to the case…

So I called the ASCI secretariat on Monday and asked if the advertising self-regulator ever gave out individual dispute orders. The person taking my call said “No”, and was surprised that the channel had done so because ASCI normally discourages the winning party from going to the media about winning a certain dispute.

In fact the outcomes of each complaint is made public only after allowing enough time for a review request by the losing party.

I thought it was fair.

What this basically meant is that while CNBC-TV18 may have had its complaint upheld, the order was conveyed officially but privately to both parties (CNBC-TV18 and ET Now) and not expected to go public… ASCi would do that after two months (on June 2, we received info on upheld complaints of March 2015).

I asked ASCI if it had indeed issued the order restraining ET Now. I got no comment. I could approach either CNBC TV18 or ET Now for more, I was told. I thought that it was a strange reaction, but then ASCI is esteemed Self-Regulator.

We dug into ASCI’s CCC reports over the last six months and did not find any complaints against both channels.

The story was simple until Tuesday evening. Yesterday, that’s Wednesday, June 17, The Times of India’s Mumbai edition had an ET Now ad under the paper’s masthead (on Page1) claiming the channel is #1. It was similar to the earlier one which was contested by ASCI. Now. while technically, ET Now is required to withdraw ads by June 22, the operative word is ‘by’ and not ‘after’.  In all fairness, after hearing of the ASCI order, it should have stopped carrying the dispute ad.

My immediate response was to write to ASCI, the Advertising Standards Council of India.

My questions:

1. What steps does ASCI take if and when an advertiser violates its advisory and continues with its advertisements even after the advisory has been issued to the advertiser?

2. Has ET Now contested the ASCI advisory/order on withdraw advertising that was found to be misleading.

I waited all day only to be told by the Secretary General late evening by mail that I will not get the answers. The reason: “In our last conversation I have very clearly indicated that as a policy, ASCI does not comment on individual cases. Your query below not being generic, it would not be right to comment on the same. Our request would be to not quote ASCI since this news has not been issued by ASCI.”

Needless to say, I was surprised with the ASCI response. At MxMIndia, our intent in approaching ASCI was simply this: “If CNBC-TV18 made a false claim on Monday, it must be exposed and if ET Now has mocked at an ASCI advisory and gone ahead with an ad, then it must be exposed too.”

By not responding to our query, and possibly because it doesn’t want its name dragged into a controversy between two powerful media groups, we are being compelled to look at motives behind ASCI not being transparent on the incident, even if there aren’t any. As my namesake ACP Pradyuman would say in the serial CID: Kuchh toh gadbad hai!

Also, clearly, ASCI – as a body needs to be vigilant in its attempt to lay standards in the business and craft of advertising. Perhaps it makes sense for ASCI to have in its fold some non-advertising/media industry biggies who would not be soft on erring members of the fraternity. And be strong and aggressive with advertisers who are incorrect and do not honour the ASCI code in letter and spirit.

By not doing so, it’s only doing great disservice to the industry that has set it up.

Remember, it was not very long ago that a minister of the central government had raised questions on ASCI’s efficacy. Some industry commentators had even raised questions about whether ASCI can deliver.

We believe it can, but not if chooses to stay mum on key decisions such as these.


Here’s the press release we received from a PR agency representing CNBC-TV18:

ASCI asks ET NOW to withdraw misleading ads

June 15, 2015, Mumbai:

The Advertising Standards Council of India, (ASCI) has upheld CNBC-TV18’s complaints against the advertising campaign released by ET NOW news channel on May 31. ASCI has advised ET NOW to withdraw or modify appropriately the said ads by 22nd June 2015.

Their campaign, launched on 31st May, 2015, was declared to be based on BARC data and their ‘internal data’.  In its ruling, ASCI made the following observations:

On ET NOW’s claim – “India’s No. 1 Business Channel.”

ASCI has upheld the complaint against this claim. Firstly, the data provided by the Advertiser is for leadership among English Business channels only and it does not consider the other regional business channels. Hence it was concluded that this declaration is misleading by omission on the advertiser’s part and contravenes Chapter I.4 of the ASCI Code.
Secondly, the source quoted is of BARC covers only two weeks of data. It refers to TV audience in the 10 to 75 lakh town class and this does not constitute the whole of India and this contravened Chapters IV.1 (b) & (d) of the ASCI Code.
On ET NOW’s claim – “Built on Expertise. Monthly Positive Stock Calls: ET Now – 1044 CNBC TV18 -326”

ASCI has upheld the complaint against this claim. The proprietary data source quoted for the claim, “Monthly Positive Stock Calls: ET Now – 1044 CNBC TV18 -326” was “Research – Consult Kraft | Period: Nov ’14 to Apr ’15 | Based on Avg.  Monthly Positive Stocks recommendations All Market Days, 7:30am to 3:30pm. This data period does not overlap with the viewership data period referred to in the advertisement.  The data provided therefore, was likely to mislead by implication and ambiguity and this contravenes Chapter I.4 of the ASCI Code.
On ET NOW’s claim – “Built on Speed. 6 out of 10 Business Stories Break on ET Now”
ASCI has upheld the complaint against this claim. This claim was not substantiated with evidence to prove that the Advertiser was indeed able to break more stories / break stories faster than others and was therefore misleading. This contravened Chapters I.1 and I.4 of the ASCI Code.

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