MacKenzie files for damages

The war of words between Kelvin MacKenzie’s The Wireless Group and Rajar stepped up a gear this week after the radio group filed a damages claim for nearly £70m against the ratings researcher.

TWG is claiming damages of more than £66m in lost revenue plus up to £1.5m costs and is pursuing an order that Rajar’s refusal to introduce electronic measurement immediately is “unlawful”.

It is also considering legal action against Rajar’s shareholders, the BBC and the Commercial Radio Companies Association.

TWG, which owns commercial radio station TalkSport plus 16 local and regional radio stations, finally began proceedings against Rajar on 16 March, after confirming its intention to do so last year (Press Gazette, 4 September, 2003).

The broadcaster initially threatened Rajar with legal action in July, after the ratings researcher announced it would not adopt electronic ratings measurement “for the foreseeable future”.

Rajar decided to stick to its current mode of measurement after testing two electronic systems over a period of 15 months – the Arbitron Portable People Meter (PPM) and the TWG-backed Radio control wristwatch – but finding that neither fulfilled its requirements.

However, TWG claims Rajar’s tests were “fatally flawed”.

The conflict between the two meant that TWG releases its own listener ratings from its use of a system by GfK, alongside Rajar’s figures for the broadcaster.

“The inaccuracy of Rajar’s diary system results in TalkSport losing revenues of approximately £1.5m per month, compared to what it would earn if an accurate audience measurement system such as the technologydriven audience measurement watch system were being used,” said TWG’s statement.

“If damages were claimed from August 2000, when TWG first requested that Rajar introduce electronic measurement, then they would amount, before tax, to more than £66m together with interest up to judgment, which is expected to be in March next year. In addition, the estimated total legal costs of both sides for a court case could be £1.5m,” it continued.

Sally de la Bedoyere, Rajar’s managing director, said it would contest the proceedings vigorously.

“Leading counsel advise that it is highly likely that the claim will be struck out before it comes to trial. It is not surprising that the ludicrous claims relating to financial losses are for the purposes of a sensational press release, and are not detailed in the proceedings,” she said.

By Wale Azeez

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