AGB Nielsen Philippine TV ratings controversy

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A legal conflict among AGB Nielsen Philippines, GMA Network and ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation for an alleged television ratings breach that occurred in Philippine cities Bacolod and Iloilo has been ongoing since the last quarter of 2007.

On December 20, 2007, Judge Charito Gonzales, Quezon City Regional Trial Court Br. 80 released a temporary restraining order on TV ratings surveys based on a civil case filed by ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation versus AGB Nielsen Media Research Philippines. ABS-CBN accused rival GMA Network of funding bribing operations at Bacolod City, to discredit the former. The Court further ordered ABS-CBN to file comment on the plea of AGB Nielsen for the alleged gathering and dissemination of television ratings data, within five days or until 22 December.

On December 21, 2007, DZMM correspondent Junrie Hidalgo reported a news story entitled AGB Nielsen, umamin sa dayaan: GMA Network, tahasang itinurong nasa likod ng dayaan (AGB Nielsen admits the cheating: GMA Network fiercely accused of being responsible of the cheating) during the program Showbiz Mismo, hosted by Cristy Fermin and Jobert Sucaldito. The news story is based on an interview of AGB Nielsen's General Manager Maya Reforma regarding the alleged cheating.

In response, GMA aired a TV plug condemning the alleged biased reporting and denied the accusations of ABS-CBN. They later filed a PHP15-million civil libel suit against ABS-CBN on 3 January 2008. The respondents included Hidalgo, Fermin, Sucaldito, the station manager and news manager of DZMM and hosts, writers and executive producers of TV programs Bandila, Entertainment Live and The Buzz after the same story was aired on the mentioned programs.

On January 7, 2008, the Quezon City RTC junked ABS-CBN's suit against AGB Nielsen, saying the case was "prematurely filed" before the court. Judge Charito Gonzales's basis is the principle of mutuality of contracts, citing Article 1308 and 1196, New Civil Code of the Philippines. Also, Judge Samuel Gaerlan, QCRTC, Branch 92 issued court summons against ABS-CBN and its 15 personnel, in the P15-million damage suit by GMA Network.

On January 17, 2008, Judge Gaerlan inhibited himself from the case, considering that he has a cousin working in the legal department of ABS-CBN.[1] The case was later re-raffled on January 28, 2008,[2] and the case was eventually assigned to Judge Henri Inting of Branch 95, QCRTC. Judge Inting submitted GMA's petition for a temporary restraining order for decision.

On February 1, ABS-CBN presented two witnesses, Romie Diamanse and Francis Casumpang, saying RGMA head Mike Enriquez was said to have given the order to cheat in a meeting. Enriquez denied the charges and said that the statements were "shameless, malicious fiction delivered by tainted informers with an axe to grind." Diamanse and Casumpang were former employees of RGMA's Iloilo Campus Radio FM station. Casumpang resigned from the station after charges of embezzlement, and now works for ABS-CBN's MOR Iloilo. On the other hand, RGMA accepted Diamanse's resignation "because he was regarded as ineffective in his duties."[3]

On February 14, 2008, Judge Inting issued a TRO barring ABS-CBN from airing defamatory statements against GMA.[4]

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