Everyone Is Wrong in the CNET/CES Conflict

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The affable boss of the Consumer Electronics Show, Gary Shapiro, blasted CBS in a USA Today editorial after CNET awarded the Dish Network Hopper with Sling “Best of CES” and then retracted it. Why did CNET change its mind? Because some unnamed executive at parent company CBS, which is currently in a legal battle with Dish, demanded it to.

Why Shapiro is complaining about this is simple: it took one more chunk of momentary CES publicity off the pages of CNET. He managed to move it to USA Today.


Legal Issues Have Priority

CBS and the other networks are upset about the Hopper and are suing the Dish Network. They can’t splash praise for the device all over their pages. That is, unless you are living under a rock and are totally naïve about how the modern legal system works. It would become a litigation nightmare.


Everyone Is to Blame

I’ve seen my share of these conflicts. First of all, I blame all the parties for this fiasco, beginning with CNET, whose editors should have had a clue about the litigation and simply recused themselves from the selection process. Were they really that hard up for the free publicity?

Even CBS does not pay writers or editors enough to allow them to get caught up in legal nastiness. The editors in particular can have none of it. And what low-paid writer can afford to end up in court, somehow testifying on behalf of the company your employer is suing? I can assure you that this would happen. Are you expected to get paid time off to testify against your employer? Let’s not be so green about this.

I also blame CES for allowing this. Shapiro, of all people, knows what’s what. He should have seen the conflict of interest once the Hopper entered the running. If the team had not chosen the Hopper and the brouhaha never occurred, other writers would have called them out on the that conflict and a different stink would have made the headlines. What was he thinking? Or was this just what he wanted? As the flames of this debacle grew, Shapiro and the CEA named the Hopper “Best of CES.”

And then there is CBS. Exactly what bonehead suit thought it was a good idea to demand that the company pull the citation from the publication? Was he born yesterday? The damage was done; the writers and editors had jumped into the stew pot and sealed their fate. It was too late. Sure, you could have sneakily fired the responsible editor shortly afterward—that’s normally how it is done—but it’s all you could really do. Instead, the Hopper gets even more publicity and CBS looks like a sleazy operation. This point was well made by Shapiro.


We Have a Winner

The real winner in all this is the Dish Network, which gets attention for a fabulous product and looks like the poor innocent victim. Someone at the company has a huge smile on his or her face.

As for the casual readers out there who moan and groan about CNET now being compromised and corrupt, get off your high horses. CNET is the same as it ever was and when these sorts of things happen, companies end up paranoid and thus work harder. So don’t worry about it.

Perhaps Dish can grab its trophy and put this to bed.

By John C. Dvorak, PCMag


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