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CES names DISH’s Hopper co-winner, as ‘Best of Show’ scandal continues for CNET

cnet the hopperIn the consumer electronics industry, we tend to be more concerned with kilobytes than Kardashians, but we too have our version of gossip – and this month has provided plenty of it. First, in the wake of  the International Consumer Electronics Show, we learned that the Razer Edge gaming tablet had retroactively been named “Best of Show,” supplanting the initial choice: DISH Hopper with Sling. The news seemed curious, but hardly juicy – until we found out why.

CES’ long-standing partnership with CNET was no secret around the industry, as the latter had been tasked with awarding Best of Show honors every year. Perhaps, lesser-known is the fact that CBS is CNET’s corporate parent. That relationship, however, was recently thrown into the spotlight.

As it turns out, CBS Corp. isn’t the biggest fan of DISH Network at the moment, as it has litigation pending against the company for – among other things – new ad-skipping features on the recently-honored Hopper DVR.

Apparently, CBS was fed up enough over its subsidiary’s decision to award its legal foe, that it ordered CNET to remove DISH’s product from consideration for Best of Show. We then learned that CNET will now refrain from reviewing products manufactured by entities with which CBS is engaged in active litigation. And journalistic integrity takes a hit!

Aside from the time and energy this has cost, and the obvious embarrassment the retraction must be causing, recent developments have only scathed CNET further. Says Karen Chupka, senior vice president, events and conferences for CEA “we are concerned the new review policy will have a negative impact on our brand should we continue the awards relationship as currently constructed.  We look forward to receiving new ideas to recognize the ‘best of the best’ products introduced at the International CES.” In other words: “This isn’t working.” Hence the justification for overruling CNET’s decision (which, remember, was previously overruled by CBS) and naming DISH Network’s Hopper co-winner of the Best of Show award. Still with us?

CNET’s relationship with the CEA isn’t the only one that has soured  from this ordeal either. According to a report by The Hill, Reporter Greg Sandoval, who had covered digital media and copyright issues for CNET for over seven years, resigned in the aftermath of the scandal. He claimed he could “no longer have confidence that CBS is committed to editorial independence.”

It’s difficult to blame him. If the reporting of a news site becomes subject to the whims of a parent company with a vested interest in the success or failure of certain products, it is diminished to the point of propaganda.

We’ll have to wait a few months to see how this plays out, but one thing is clear: it will take quite a few showers for CNET to wash this one away.