On Friday, the news broke that CNET had been forced by its parent company CBS to remove the Dish Network’s Hopper set-top box from its “Best of CES” awards due to ongoing litigation between the two companies. CBS has been battling Dish Network over the Hopper’s ability to skip over commercials automatically (NBC, ABC, and Fox are also taking legal action).
Early reviews for the product were definitely strong. CNET published a very positive review in which executive editor David Carnoy suggested it may be the best DVR available. The folks at CNET liked it so much that they nominated it for their “Best of CES” award:
CBS noticed this and told CNET it had to remove the Dish Hopper with Sling from consideration for the “Best of CES” award and that it was no longer allowed to review any Dish products. CNET appended the following note to their review:
Editors’ note: The Dish Hopper with Sling was removed from consideration for the Best of CES 2013 awards due to active litigation involving our parent company CBS Corp. We will no longer be reviewing products manufactured by companies with which we are in litigation with respect to such product.
This is immensely stupid for a variety of reasons. Let’s name a few.
First off, there were tons of articles this week about products seen at CES, and the place was packed with journalists—at least half of whom are putting together their own “best of” lists. With so many CES stories, most won’t even get a passing glance. But now, tons of people are finding out about this new Dish DVR that is so awesome that CBS is trying to block any news of it from getting out. People may not know what product CNET—or other publications—awarded “best of CES” to, but they’ll be well aware of Dish’s new DVR.
Secondly, this issue takes away a lot of CNET‘s credibility. They’ve always had some of the strongest reporters in the business. But now, I think we need to question how much the suits are interfering with their ability to report things accurately and objectively. If I worked for CNET right now, I’d seriously be considering quitting in protest (and I wouldn’t be the first). This move seriously damages the brand and integrity of the site, and this is something journalists should stand up against. Having the parent company’s lawsuits interfere with what they can write about is a massive offense to journalists. I expect to see a number of CNET reporters leaving the publication behind.
CBS’s corporate leaders were likely thinking that Dish would use the reviews from CNET as evidence in the lawsuit, which may be true (and could still happen). They didn’t stifle the review—they made it more well-known. They didn’t do anything to benefit their lawsuit. Now they’re left with a publication with no credibility, and a team of pissed off journalists who have to question their freedom to report the news.