CBS Forced CNET To Drop Its 'Best Of CES 2013' Winner, The DISH Hopper - Reporter quits over CBS interference
1/14/2013 @ 4:10PM
The ‘Hopper’ not only could have been a contender, it would have won CNET’s Best of CES award. Instead, CBS told the editors to do a re-vote.
According to a report by The Verge, CNET editors had already voted on their Best of CES winner when news came down from corporate that they had to change their vote and drop the “Hopper” entirely.
The device, developed by the DISH Network, gives television viewers the ability to “hop” over commercials. It’s hardly surprising that it might win a few awards—after all, skipping commercials is one reason people have DVRs, TiVo and used to record shows on their VCRs way-back-when.
But apparently CBS (along with a number of other major networks) are in the midst of litigation with DISH over the Hopper, and when the suits at the top learned that the pesky editorial staff at CNET had picked the Hopper for the Best of CES award, they sent News senior-vice president and General Manager Mark Larkin to break the bad news to the CNET staff.
“Larkin informed CNET’s staff that the Hopper could not take the top award,” The Verge reports. “The Hopper would have to be removed from consideration, and the editorial team had to re-vote and pick a new winner from the remaining choices. Sources say that Larkin was distraught while delivering the news — at one point in tears — as he told the team that he had fought CBS executives who had made the decision.”
According to the report, CBS CEO Leslie Moonves “has been one of the most outspoken opponents of the Hopper, telling investors at one point, “Hopper cannot exist… if Hopper exists, we will not be in business with (Dish).”"
This is bad news for CNET, and will certainly harm the site’s credibility with readers through no fault of its staff. Even so, the staff at CNET are being as transparent as possible about the events in the fallout of the re-vote.
CNET editor Lindsey Turrentine has a post up on the struggle the team faced. An excerpt:
We were in an impossible situation as journalists. The conflict of interest was real — a legal case can impact the bottom line of our company and introduce the possibility of bias — but the circumstances demanded more transparency and not hurried policy.
I could have quit right then. Maybe I should have. I decided that the best thing for my team was to get through the day as best we could and to fight the fight from the other side. Every single member of the CNET Reviews team is a dedicated, ethical, passionate technology critic. If I abandoned them now, I would be abandoning the ship.
CNET Senior Vice President and General Manager Mark Larkin and I reacted by gathering our team and telling them the only thing we were allowed to say, which was and is the truth as far as I know: That because of active litigation between CBS and Dish, we had to disqualify Dish and that the only fair thing to do in this new reality was to revote and inform Dish about what had happened. That is what we did.
Meanwhile, tech journalist Greg Sandoval has resigned from CNET, tweeting: “Hello all. Sad to report that I’ve resigned from CNET. I no longer have confidence that CBS is committed to editorial independence.”
He goes on to assure followers that he isn’t disgruntled. “CBS and CNET were great to me. I just want to be known as an honest reporter. …Please know no one in News or Reviews editorial did anything wrong. I believe CNET’s leaders are also honest but used poor judgement. …CNET wasn’t honest about what occurred regarding Dish is unacceptable to me. We are supposed to be truth tellers.”
I also understand the bind that CBS was found itself in. It certainly might have placed their lawsuit in a bind had one of their subsidiaries voted the very technology they were challenging as best in show at CES. But that probably should have been addressed prior to the Consumer Electronics Show and certainly prior to the CNET vote.
Furthermore, I can’t imagine that the independent vote of CNET staff could truly impact a legal battle in any way. Tech can be impressive even if it is, in the end, deemed improper or illegal.
Finally, though, the interference itself will lead to more Hopper coverage than a Best-Of-Show award, and the coverage will be universally more negative toward CBS.