For the last several years, CNET
has been coordinating the CES
product awards at that big annual electronics show in Las Vegas (you may have heard it mentioned around here a few times), but that arrangement has abruptly ended. According to Boston.com, the Consumer Electronics Agency (CEA
), which runs the show, will not be asking CNET back next year because it believes that CNET’s parent company, CBS Corp., interfered with this year’s award selection process.
Apparently, CNET staffers wanted to give the coveted Best in Show award to Dish Network
’s Hopper whole-home DVR with Sling technology, but CBS
stopped them because it’s currently embroiled in a legal conflict with Dish over--you guessed it--how DVR technology lets consumers skip commercials. With the Hopper award apparently kiboshed by the higher-ups, CNET gave the award to the Razer Edge instead. The CEA has now made the Hopper a co-winner along with the Razer Edge.
It should surprise absolutely no one that conflicts such as these arise when a huge media company owns many smaller media and news outlets; at some point, there will definitely be an issue that a news outlet has to responsibly cover that will upset the parent company several steps up the chain. However, it’s a shame that a company like CBS appears to have so blatantly intervened on something so high-profile as CES awards.
What’s even more jarring is that CBS is not backing down. According to a blog post on CNET, a CBS spokesperson said:
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.
We understand CBS’ point of view--the company is indeed fighting a high-stakes legal war over DVR technology--but the rather flippant tone of this statement indicates that CBS is just ticked off more than it is concerned about any legal issues, and it makes CNET sound like a child that overstepped its bounds. (The “CNET is not going to give an award” bit sounds a lot like a version of “No son of mine is going to X, Y, or Z”.) Assuming that’s the case, any intervention on CBS’ part is all the more egregious, and the CEA would indeed have no choice but to can CNET.
To be fair to CNET, it noted that the CEA has publicly backed Dish in the Hopper lawsuit against CBS, thus indicating that the CEA may have its own agenda at work, and it further stated that its own policies affect what it can cover:
CNET's product reviews policy states that its editors will not review any product or service that is currently involved in active litigation with CBS Corporation with respect to the legality of the product or service. The Dish Hopper and Aereo TV streaming service currently fall into that category.
Maybe that policy precludes CNET from covering products like Dish, but that brings us back to the issue of big media companies controlling too many properties. This prevents CNET from doing its job as a news outlet, because CNET doesn’t have a problem with Dish, CBS does. But because CBS owns CNET, there’s a serious trickle-down effect.
All that said, we’re not going to throw stones at the CNET staff; we don’t know what their motivations were beyond probably wanting to keep their jobs, and who knows what the bosses said to them when they were making their award decisions. Their hands may simply have been tied.
Razer Edge gaming tablet
Finally, what might be the most bizarre bit in this ugly debacle is that a DVR was initially chosen for the best product at CES over any number of other amazing items, including but not limited to the Razer Edge that eventually won the title (that it now shares with the Hopper).