How CBS abandoned objectivity with CNET
by Chris Roush
Gary Shapiro, the CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, takes aim at CBS Corp.’s lack of objectivity in dealing with the recent decision to prevent its subsidiary, tech news site CNET, from writing about Dish and its products due to litigation with the company.
Shapiro writes, “First, it destroys two reputations in a single action. CBS, once called the Tiffany network, will never be viewed again as pristine. The ethical media rule is that corporate business interests should never interfere in journalism – or at least not so blatantly, publicly and harmfully. It made me wonder if 60 Minutes had ever suffered the same treatment.
“CBS’ actions also hurt the value of their asset, CNET, which they purchased for $1.8 billion a few years ago. One CNET reporter even resigned over the editorial meddling. Not only have CNET users and partners like us lost confidence in its independence, but the action is so devastating to editorial integrity that other staffers are almost certainly freshening their resumes.
“Second, if this decision was based on legal advice, it was bad advice. It was later revealed by the top person at CNET that the 40 CNET journalists had unanimously decided that the Hopper Sling was the most innovative product at the 2013 International CES. Removing the product from the website does not change that. I can’t imagine Dish lawyers won’t figure out a way to get that in to evidence. All the removal proves legally is that the CBS brass really doesn’t like the product and that they’re bad at PR. They took a nice award that gets decent publicity and turned it into a hugely noticed award that got mega-publicity.
“CNET is a credible technology industry journalism organization with respected reporters and analysts, and has always been a good partner to CES when examining these awards. CBS had a pristine reputation, and other than its questionable anti-innovation litigation strategy, had shown an ability to embrace innovation and try new things such as acquiring CNET and experimenting with a Groupon model. But those reputations have been severely damaged.”
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