CNET Admits to Being Strong Armed By CBS Over CES Award

Posted by at 2:30 pm on January 14, 2013

Tech site CNET today confirmed that it initially selected the Dish Hopper for its Best of CES award. But that prompted parent company CBS to step in and order that the site select another winner due to ongoing litigation between CBS and Dish.The controversy has led to the resignation of at least one CNET staffer, Greg Sandoval, who covered digital media.

At issue is the “best of” awards that publications – like PCMag – hand out to tech companies for superior releases at trade shows like CES. At this year’s CES, Dish launched a Sling-enabled Hopper DVR, which will let customers watch live and recorded television anywhere, not just at home.

Last week, CNET announced on its Twitter feed that the Dish Hopper with Sling was nominated for its Best of CES award. But when the site’s final selections were announced, the Hopper with Sling was no longer on the list, and the article included a note that said the site was forced to remove the product from consideration due to the lawsuit. CNET said it would also not review Dish products until the lawsuit was resolved.

At issue is a lawsuit filed last year by TV networks – including CBS – that accused Dish of violating copyright law with a commercial-skipping feature in its Hopper DVR. The service can automatically record all┬áprime time┬ácontent from ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC at the same time. A user’s recording will then automatically skip the commercials.

Lindsey Turrentine, CNET’s Editor-in-Chief, wrote in a Monday afternoon post that the site “chose the Dish Hopper for our Best of CES award because of innovative features that push shows recorded on DVR to iPads.”Turrentine said CNET notified Dish about the win last week and started to prepare for its awards show the next day, but the suits stepped in.

“Later that evening, we were alerted to the legal conflict for CBS. All night and through to morning, my managers up and down CNET and I fought for two things: To honor the original vote and – when it became clear that CBS Corporate did not accept that answer – to issue a transparent statement regarding the original vote,” she wrote.Editors, however, were told to refer all questions about the controversy to corporate communications and only release an official statement.

Turrentine said CNET staffers “were in an impossible situation as journalists” because of the “real” conflict of interest. She said she opted not to quit because “if I abandoned [the team] now, I would be abandoning the ship.”
“If I had to face this dilemma again, I would not quit. I stand by my team and the years of work they have put into making CNET what it is,” she wrote. “But I wish I could have overridden the decision not to reveal that Dish had won the vote in the trailer. For that I apologize to my staff and to CNET readers.”

“Going forward, I will do everything within my power to prevent this situation from happening again,” Turrentine concluded.
Sandoval, however, resigned from CNET after the incident.”CNET wasn’t honest about what occurred regarding Dish is unacceptable to me. We are supposed to be truth tellers,” he tweeted today. “Please know no one in News or Reviews editorial did anything wrong. I believe CNET’s leaders are also honest but used poor judgement.”

Sandoval said he was “not disgruntled” but wants “to be known as an honest reporter.”

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