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Media houses and agencies are free to use the Indian Readership Survey (IRS) report 2013 for marketing and media planning purposes, the Bombay high court said Thursday.
Acting on a petition filed by HT Media Limited (HTML), the court rejected the contention of Media Research User Council (MRUC), which prepared the report, that its data cannot be used by subscribers pending completion of a third-party audit of the survey results. "In my view, thus, holding of IRS 2013 in abeyance or restraint on further publication thereof by the respondent (MRUC) does not in any way restrict the petitioner's (HTML) right to make use of IRS 2013 already published by the respondent," justice SC Gupte said in the order.
The MRUC — an industry body represented by advertisers, publishers and broadcasters — and the Readership Studies Council of India (RSCI) had released the findings of the IRS 2013 in January. MRUC had joined hands with the Audit Bureau of Circulations to set up the RSCI.
According to the IRS 2013 findings, Hindustan Times, with a daily readership (average issue readership, or AIR) of 22.65 lakh in Delhi-NCR, has a lead of more than 6 lakh copies over its closest competitor, The Times of India, which has an AIR of 16.52 lakh.
In Mumbai, Hindustan Times has reached a readership of 13.62 lakh readers.
The group's other publication, Hindustan, has become the clear No. 2 newspaper in the country with more than 1.42 crore readers.
The RSCI and MRUC had decided to keep the findings in abeyance till the completion of a third-party audit within four to six weeks after some media companies complained about the quality of the study and called for the data to be withdrawn on grounds of flawed methodology.
HT Media Ltd, which publishes Hindustan Times and Mint, had challenged this decision.
Rejecting MURC's plea, the court said it was "MRUC's own case that the methodology and process adopted for the survey were robust and the survey report was correct," but that it was kept in abeyance only because of revalidation exercise.
"The IRS licence provides that subscribers and users of IRS 2013 can utilise the findings thereof for their own business interests and market and media planning, etc. on their own faith of usefulness of the same for the purpose and entirely on their risk. The petitioner (HTML) is admittedly a subscriber and user of IRS 2013, having paid in advance for the same. There can be possibly no objection to the petitioner using the published findings and data of IRS 2013. The respondent (MRUC) itself can have no objection if such data is used by the petitioner," the HC said, posting the case for final hearing on June 25.
Regarding a Gwalior court's order restraining MRUC from further publishing IRS 2013, the high court said, "It surely cannot come in the way of a member/subscriber of IRS 2013 making use of the already published report."