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CBS Requires CNET To Re-vote on CES's "Best in Show"
January 14, 2013 12:38 PM   Subscribe

CBS has been in a dispute with Dish Networks, maker of the "Hopper", a device that allows users to skip commercials on their DVR, seeing it as a threat to their broadcast business model. After the "Hopper" was voted best in show at CES by the editors of CNET, CNET's parent CBS intervened and required a re-vote.

According to The Verge, "executives at CBS learned that the Hopper would win "Best of Show" prior to the announcement. Before the winner was unveiled, CBS Interactive News senior-vice president and General Manager Mark Larkin informed CNET's staff that the Hopper could not take the top award. 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. "

As part of the fallout, CNET reporter Greg Sandoval announced he was quitting, stating on twitter that he no longer had confidence that CBS was interested in guaranteeing editorial independence for CNET.
posted by modernnomad (42 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Couldn't have happened to a nicer corporate shill review site.
posted by phaedon at 12:44 PM on January 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


Somebody should tell them about the Streisand effect. This is probably even better publicity for the Hopper than actually winning the price would have brought it.
posted by DreamerFi at 12:46 PM on January 14, 2013 [21 favorites]


To be fair, it's pretty stupid to highlight a technology that directly undermines the business model of the parent company that's paying you to prance around and blog about gadgets.
posted by jimmythefish at 12:46 PM on January 14, 2013


CNET's parent CBS intervened and required a re-vote.

Their house, their rules. If you want to be independent, you have to leave the nest.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:46 PM on January 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


I respect Mr. Sandoval's commitment to his own ethics, but while I dislike the idea of a giant corporate overlord rewriting headlines that it finds inconvenient, I'm a little surprised that he chose to die on the hill of "you will not tamper with the results of our inner-office 'hottest new gadget' survey."
posted by Mr. Anthropomorphism at 12:46 PM on January 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


Rewinding to erase fastforwarding is sort of funny.
posted by srboisvert at 12:47 PM on January 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


I love CBS's statement on this:
CBS has been consistent on this situation from the beginning, and, in terms of covering actual news, CNET maintains 100% editorial independence, and always will. We look forward to the site building on its reputation of good journalism in the years to come.
So CNET is totally independent, unless CBS feels like changing the rules, because reviews don't constitute editorial judgement. This, my friends, is why media consolidation is a problem.
posted by zachlipton at 12:50 PM on January 14, 2013 [38 favorites]


Ars Technica claims that CNET was barred from reviewing Dish products at all, not merely giving them inconsequential CES awards.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:51 PM on January 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


Stop it, stop it now. You're giving the NRA ideas.
posted by I love you more when I eat paint chips at 12:54 PM on January 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


To be fair, it's pretty stupid to highlight a technology that directly undermines the business model of the parent company that's paying you to prance around and blog about gadgets.

Bull. If they thought it won, they should say it, otherwise they're not a news site.

One may debate, of course, whether they were ever a news site. The whole of tech journalism appears to be about a half a step above gaming reviews in terms of genuine editorial independence. But I think it's bullshit to posit that they should just accept that they don't get to report things that aren't in their bosses' interests.

Look, I mean, I get it, everybody hates the media and believes they're biased. And the current media life support structures are dissolving before our eyes, and maybe that will forever alter whether anybody gets to ever really be independent any more, now that the fat's gone and the meat's been pared and every lost ad cuts into the bone. But I don't think it's fucking alright. Even a shitty gadget review site shouldn't just have to lay down and take it when the truth is something their bosses don't like. Nobody should.
posted by Diablevert at 12:57 PM on January 14, 2013 [17 favorites]


One may debate, of course, whether they were ever a news site.

They're not a news site. They're a shill site, as said above.
posted by jimmythefish at 12:58 PM on January 14, 2013


A situation with interesting parallels is unfolding these last few days in China.

The Chinese situation is more serious, obviously, but censorship sucks, no matter who is doing it. 南方周末和CNET加油!
posted by zjacreman at 1:02 PM on January 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


So CNET is totally independent, unless CBS feels like changing the rules, because reviews don't constitute editorial judgement

Hey, you can have the car keys and some spending money, as long as dad doesn't find out that you've been playing that hippity-hop garbage on the radio.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:03 PM on January 14, 2013


There was a time when CNET was ahead of the curve. Now, they are just a tool of Big Media. =(
posted by andreaazure at 1:08 PM on January 14, 2013


To be fair, it's pretty stupid to highlight a technology that directly undermines the business model of the parent company that's paying you to prance around and blog about gadgets.

FFS, integrity is a commodity. It's pretty stupid to sacrifice that to your vanities.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 1:09 PM on January 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


CBS is the one in the wrong here. They are shooting the credibility of CNET in the belly. CNET is now officially a house organ and is nothing more than one of those supermarket mags that have the hard hitting story about the product with a coupon in that page.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:10 PM on January 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Even a shitty gadget review site shouldn't just have to lay down and take it when the truth is something their bosses don't like. Nobody should.

Should have said this above, but that's truly laughable. Product reviews by CNET are 100% advertising. You're a monkey working for the man. I'd be shocked if anyone there thought otherwise - at least until this little hissy fit.

This isn't censorship. This is a company deciding not to advertise something that is self defeating. This is a subtle but important distinction.
posted by jimmythefish at 1:10 PM on January 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Between this and the completely idiotic body-painted "fembots" advertising hard drives at one booth, CES just seems like it needs to be taken out behind the woodshed and put out of its misery.
posted by jess at 1:11 PM on January 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


CBS has been consistent on this situation from the beginning, and, in terms of covering actual news, CNET maintains 100% editorial independence, and always will. [Emphasis added.]

I love that. "We are happy to discuss this situation with grown-ups who acknowledge that this argument is about a silly pageant that was part of a Las Vegas retreat."
posted by cribcage at 1:11 PM on January 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


everybody [thinks] the media [is] biased.

And why would that be? Could the actions they take are different from what they say their purpose and actions are going to be?

CNET maintains 100% editorial independence, and always will.

And how do their actions support this claim? Or is making this statement an example of 100% editorial independence from what actually happens?
posted by rough ashlar at 1:12 PM on January 14, 2013




Thank you, CBS! Somehow I had missed hearing about the Hopper before this story broke, and I certainly would have paid no mind to a CNET best-of-CES list before you stepped in.
posted by ckape at 1:18 PM on January 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


They're not a shill site. Who'd resign on a point of principle from a shill site?

The sad thing is, Les Moonves has stood up for editorial independence in the face of advertiser pressure before now. But that didn't involve legal - everyone pulls stories if legal says so, right? Only that's normally legal talking to edit over edit breaking the rules and angering an outside agency. Not that it gets in the way of a lawsuit your own company is running.

CBS, like all of the old media, has a problem. Its business model, which it is compelled to follow because it makes money and it can't build a new one that makes more money out of the gate, is entirely broken by the direction of technology and the way the customers want to use it. That restriction of supply which allowed you to create artificial scarcity and thus maintain value? Gone. But you can hold things up through lawsuits and lobbying - indeed, you must, otherwise you risk not Maximising Shareholder Value and end up in court.

But CBS, like all the old media, knows that it needs to be online. So it buys in Bright Young Cyberthings - in this case, CNet Networks, and tells them to do great hings. Unfortunately. BYCs are not keen on supporting the old system and are impatient with anything that gets in the way of the endgame. The irony is, Les Moonves and co are just as aware of the endgame as, say,the tattooed techs in the engine room of last.fm or Gamespot, but nonetheless the CBS board has to support stuff like Creative America, SOPA and so much else that sticks in the craw of anyone who knows what HTTP stands for.

So, this sort of shit will continue to happen. I'm sorry that it is like this, and ultimately blame legal for it all. Don't beat up on the poor bloody infantry who actually have to make the content that keeps the whole show on the road - in CNet and the majority of places I know, they actually care about what they do and fight for it.
posted by Devonian at 1:22 PM on January 14, 2013 [11 favorites]


But hey, nothing to worry about re: fewer independent media organizations. Having every news op owned by one of a few massive corporations will work out just fine.
posted by phearlez at 1:38 PM on January 14, 2013




The business of the journalists is to destroy the truth, to lie outright, to pervert, to vilify, to fawn at the feet of mammon, and to sell his country and his race for his daily bread. You know it and I know it, and what folly is this toasting an independent press? We are the tools and vassals of rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes."

1880, eh? "10 Days in a Madhouse" was published in 1886. By Nellie Bly. Also there was Upton Sinclair, H.L. Mencken, John Hersey, David Halberstam, Bob & Carl, of course. Dana Priest and Anne Hull, a bit more recently. There is a pendulum; it swings. Sometimes better, sometimes worse, never wholly one or the other, in the depths of that Gilded Age or this one. It's our job to do our bit to push the sucker onto the good side. That we can do.
posted by Diablevert at 1:44 PM on January 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


I love that. "We are happy to discuss this situation with grown-ups who acknowledge that this argument is about a silly pageant that was part of a Las Vegas retreat."

But it's obviously more than that, or CBS wouldn't have flipped out about the award in the first place. The fact that the CEO of a company with over $14 billion in revenue in 2011 is going apoplectic over an invention that was regarded by a panel of editors as "the best" among those at a major event is a noteworthy thing. We all know that this isn't the government cracking down on dissidents or China censoring the internet, but this also isn't a newspaper publisher upset because his niece didn't win the county beauty pageant either. Technological progress and innovation is important in this world (and economy!) and letting journalists and editors conduct reviews is part of how that progress occurs. The Hopper may not be an epic innovation on the grand scale of human achievement, but it's got to have some significance if the editors choose it for Best in Show and CBS is this upset about it.
posted by zachlipton at 1:45 PM on January 14, 2013 [10 favorites]


I still hate the Hopper commercials. Makes me want to buy one to skip the annoying things.
posted by cjorgensen at 2:50 PM on January 14, 2013


It's Hahpah, or so the commercials would have you believe.
posted by tommasz at 2:57 PM on January 14, 2013


this also isn't a newspaper publisher upset because his niece didn't win the county beauty pageant either.

No, it's not. But let's add that the pageant is being judged by a bunch of the newspaper's reporters who have attended the three-day county fair in Las Vegas on the publisher's dime. Now it is unsurprising that the publisher chuckles when he hears that his reporters have decided to award the crown and its cash prize to the official spokesmodel of his archenemy's company. "Um...no, guys. Try again."

It's a better story if you assume that CBS executives must have been screaming into telephones and running around panicked, and that the group from CNET had gone to Las Vegas in suits and ties to uphold the best traditions of Edward R. Murrow. But it amuses me that CBS's public response was to completely ignore that framing and basically give an exasperated sigh. They even used the phrase, "actual news." That's funny.
posted by cribcage at 2:58 PM on January 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Beyond further damage to CBS ethical reputation, I do wonder whether this will affect their lawsuit: shady attempts to hide evidence always seems to backfire.
posted by adamsc at 3:53 PM on January 14, 2013


Between this and the completely idiotic body-painted "fembots" advertising hard drives at one booth, CES just seems like it needs to be taken out behind the woodshed and put out of its misery.

Wow. I didn't realise what they did before or even that this product existed. Now I know I want to buy one. Oh well. #notbuyingit now.
posted by Talez at 4:14 PM on January 14, 2013


Commercials? Do people still watch those? Get thee some MythTV.
posted by indubitable at 4:35 PM on January 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes, we in this thread about commercial-skipping DVR technology have heard of DVR technology that allows us to skip commercials. I know, that's shocking.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 4:40 PM on January 14, 2013


Oh well then, I guess since everyone's a hyper-informed IT geek like you, they've already heard of it and mentioning it should only merit derision.
posted by indubitable at 5:04 PM on January 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


FFS, integrity is a commodity. It's pretty stupid to sacrifice that to your vanities.
FFS? For fuck's sake? Really? Not only are people with integrity stupid, you think they're vain and hold them in contempt? I think that says a lot more about you then anyone else. People with zero integrity are cause a lot more damage then people with too much.
Yes, we in this thread about commercial-skipping DVR technology have heard of DVR technology that allows us to skip commercials. I know, that's shocking.
The first ever TiVo's had commercial skipping technology. I didn't know that the TV networks had stamped it out - I assumed they all had that tech.
posted by delmoi at 5:40 PM on January 14, 2013


The first ever TiVo's had commercial skipping technology. I didn't know that the TV networks had stamped it out - I assumed they all had that tech.

That's what gets me. A souped-up DVR wins "best in show"?
posted by ShutterBun at 8:44 PM on January 14, 2013


I believe the difference here is that the Hopper automatically skips commercials.
posted by dirigibleman at 8:58 PM on January 14, 2013


Hmm, I use a product that automatically skips commercials. I call it the internet.
posted by evilDoug at 9:06 PM on January 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


And last night John Oliver did a great piece of the Daily Show about an investigative reporter who was laid off by CNN and found work at HBO on the show Newsroom. It ended with Jeff Daniels going all Sorkin.
posted by Ber at 7:59 AM on January 15, 2013


Nice work yelling at someone for saying the exact opposite of what they're actually saying, delmoi.
posted by phearlez at 10:50 AM on January 15, 2013


jimmythefish: "Should have said this above, but that's truly laughable. Product reviews by CNET are 100% advertising. You're a monkey working for the man. I'd be shocked if anyone there thought otherwise - at least until this little hissy fit."

Well, prepare to be shocked: not only did one person there think otherwise, he actually quit over it!
posted by Bugbread at 5:23 AM on January 16, 2013


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