The Consumer Electronics Association issued a press release on Thursday, belatedly awarding the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) “Best in Show” award to the Dish Hopper with Sling DVR. The Hopper had originally won the award, but then CNET was forced to reverse its decision when parent company CBS demanded it do so.
The CEA added that the Razer Edge, CNET’s official choice, would be considered a co-“Best in Show” winner.
Finally, the CEA announced that CNET would no longer be in charge of the CES “Best in Show” award. The CEA said it would issue a request for proposals from other potential partners. CEA senior VP Karen Chupka wrote that the CEA is “concerned [CNET’s] new review policy will have a negative impact on our brand should we continue the awards relationship.”
What Chupka is speaking of is a new editorial doctrine issued by CBS. With that, CNET is no longer permitted to review products or services whose legality is being contested by CBS. For now, this ban on reviews affects Dish’s Hopper DVRs and Aereo’s livestreaming service.
The scandal — and that is what many have called it — began when CNET chose the Hopper with Sling DVR as its “Best in Show” winner. However, parent company CBS is involved in a lawsuit with Dish over the Hopper’s controversial automatic ad-skipping technology. It told CNET it had to change its award choice, which the editors begrudgingly did.
One CNET reporter, Greg Sandoval, resigned over the issue.
A CNET spokesperson issued this response:
As the #1 tech news and reviews site in the world, CNET is committed to delivering in-depth coverage of consumer electronics. We look forward to covering CES and the latest developments from the show, as we have for well over a decade.
However, it was also reported that a CBS Interactive spokesperson said that, even before the CEA made its decision to sever ties with CNET, CBS had already decided it would not attempt to partner with CEA for the CES awards again.
On Wednesday, CEA president and CEO Gary Shapiro wrote an op-ed which appeared in the USA Today. He wrote:
[CBS] destroys two reputations in a single action. CBS, once called the Tiffany network, will never be viewed again as pristine. The ethical media rule is that corporate business interests should never interfere in journalism – or at least not so blatantly, publicly and harmfully. It made me wonder if 60 Minutes had ever suffered the same treatment.
CBS’ actions also hurt the value of their asset, CNET, which they purchased for $1.8 billion a few years ago. One CNET reporter even resigned over the editorial meddling. Not only have CNET users and partners like us lost confidence in its independence, but the action is so devastating to editorial integrity that other staffers are almost certainly freshening their resumes.
In response, a spokesperson for CBS issued the following statement:
CNET is not going to give an award or any other validation to a product which CBS is challenging as illegal, other networks believe to be illegal and one court has already found to violate the copyright act in its application. Beyond that, CNET will cover every other product and service on the planet.