International auditor holds Express TV guilty of rating fraud

By Iram Salim

Islamabad (Pakdestiny) Express Media Group cuts a sorry figure after the international auditors holds it guilty of fraud to increase its rating.
Its a big shame for Pakistani electronic media in general and Express group in particular to indulge in corrupt practices. The PEMRA should intervene and take strict action against Express TV to make it an example for the rest of the electronic media.
Mr. Robert Ruud, the international auditor, said over 8 months of data of all the channels was audited including Express, representing 6,000 individuals in the TAM (Television Audience Measurement) panel and 12 million data points.
The auditor concluded that there was undeniable evidence of tampering in favor or Express channels. While Mr. Robert Ruud appeared and duly clarified aspects of his report and answered the queries from the PBA Board, the hearing of the show cause proceedings could not be concluded due to the non-appearance of Mr. Sultan Lakhani (Express News) who through an email asked for more time and more documents to file a reply.
In the interests of justice, the PBA Board allowed Express News 10 more days to file reply and appear before the Board. The Board also extended the earlier suspension of Express News from the PBA until conclusion of the show cause proceedings. The above was passed unanimously by the PBA Board.
Robert Ruud is a technical adviser to the Norwegian Media Businesses’ Association and has played a central role in introducing TAM meters in Norway. Robert has a Masters of Social Science from Oslo University and has done TAM audits and consulting in Romania, Norway, Lebanon, UAE, Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Switzerland, Denmark, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Croatia, South Africa and Pakistan.
The Express media group had shamelessly denied and alleging the media rating company to save its skin.

Earlier, a meeting of Board of Directors of Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA) was held here. The purpose of the meeting was, firstly, to hear the independent auditor, and to allow Board members and the accused Express News, an opportunity to ask him any questions and, secondly, to conduct a hearing of the show cause proceedings and reach a decision regarding the tampering allegation.
The meeting was 5th in a series of Board meetings since Media-logic, the television audience measurement company, had made a complaint regarding tampering of viewership ratings by Express channels (Television Media Network).
In previous Board meetings PBA had decided to ask a third party international auditor to independently investigate the allegations of Media logic against Express.
The PBA Board meeting claimed that the same auditor, Robert Ruud was appointed in 2014, unanimously by the PBA Board, including Express, to do an annual audit of Media logic.
Express representative Sultan Lakhani was also PBA’s finance secretary at the time and approved the payment for the audit service and therefore Express is having difficulty responding to the auditor or raising doubts about him.
Robert Ruud concluded that Express channels had benefited from the tampering of the ratings system since January 2015.
Ruud told PBA that sophisticated statistical analysis without doubt proved that more than 70% of ratings increase for Express came from tampering.
He further concluded that Express Channels were given this illegal benefit for at least 6 months and that anyone who has any experience in auditing in this field would come to the same conclusion after analyzing the data.
Earlier estimate of 45 crore loss was under reported and the actual loss to industry is in billion of rupees.
In the previous Board meeting held on September 9th 2015, PBA had issued a Show Cause Notice to Express, attaching the alleged evidences from Medialogic.
The evidence included multiple affidavits of household members who claimed that they were asked to watch Express channels in return for money, affidavits of Media logic employees who claimed that they were paid by people to push the viewing of Express channels, and Bank account and financial transactions trail showing Express paying certain Express employees who then paid Medialogic staff members.
A TV recording was also included where an Express Group employee is asking Media-logic person to tamper ratings and in case of any negative consequences Express Group’s companies including Colgate Palmolive and McDonalds will have vacancy for them.
Instead of giving PBA even a single reply to any of the allegations, Express has resorted to giving conspiracy theories in its own media.
There is hardly any doubt now in the media industry and experts from it that Express is guilty of the crime. Experts from the industry also remind that in 2008-9, two times at least the same accusations were made against Express of tampering with ratings to increase its own profits unfairly at the expense of the entire industry. Pakdestiny

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