CBS finds itself in a CNET editorial spat

The US tech press is famous for whoring itself out to the IT industry, but it seems that CNET might have slunk to a new low by giving its editorial policy over  Big Content.

CNET has been told by its CBS studio overlords that it was not allowed to say that Dish’s controversial “advert skipping” Hopper DVR was any good. This was a bit tricky because CNET had just awarded the Hopper a product of the year award.

According to the Wall Street Journal, while CNET thought the product was great, CBS is suing Dish, claiming the product is illegal because of copyright infringement and piracy. Since CBS owns CNET it thinks that it should only write reviews which back its anti-piracy views.

Official CBS policy bans CNET from reviewing products implicated in lawsuits, but claims CNET still has complete editorial independence over “actual news”.

While this appears to make the playing field level, if it is taken literally it would mean that CNET could not review any of the Apple or Samsung products because these are subject to court cases.

CNET senior writer Greg Sandoval has shown that he is one of the few US tech journalists with backbone and has quit in protest at the episode. He wrote on his Twitter account that he no longer had “confidence that CBS is committed to editorial independence”.

CBS issued a statement to the New York Times calling the ban on the Hopper “an isolated and unique incident in which a product that has been challenged as illegal”. Of course, CBS is assuming that it is right, and is using the companies it owns to sub-judicially punish Dish.

A spokesperson said that CBS has nothing but the highest regard for the editors and writers at CNET.

In fact, CNET reviews editor Lindsey Turrentine regretted that the publication did not clearly state that the Hopper with Sling had won the editors’ vote for Best In Show and that CBS demanded using language that hid the fact.

Bob Toevs, head of corporate communications at Dish pointed out that the whole thing goes to show how editorial independence and integrity, which the company says it has valued from CNET in the past, is damaged.

He said that it was terribly unfortunate they had been put in this position by CBS and was completely avoidable.