updated 02:39 pm EST, Mon January 14, 2013
Reviews ban put in place over existing Dish litigation
Executives at CBS have forced CNet to remove Dish Network's Hopper from its CES awards, due to ongoing lawsuits. CNet's parent company apparently wanted the awards changed shortly after a ban on products by companies CBS was in litigation with came into effect, and forced the change on the editorial team, leading one reporter to announce their departure.
The ban on reviewing specific products on a legal basis was put in place because of the potential for reviews and content from CNet being used against CBS in its case against Dish Network over its AutoHop commercial-skipping service, according to The Verge. CNet had in fact written favorably about the Hopper, including reviewing the device on the 7th of January.
CBS executives learned that the Hopper would receive the "Best of Show" award from CNet, as voted for by its editorial staff, and demanded it be removed from consideration. CBS Interactive News senior-vice president and General Manager Mark Larkin was said to be distraught when telling the CNet editorial team the decree from management, allegedly from CBS CEO Leslie Moonves, and that others tried to fight the demand.
A disclaimer on the Best of CES page states "The Dish Hopper with Sling was removed from consideration due to active litigation involving our parent company CBS Corp. We will no longer be reviewing products manufactured by companies with which we are in litigation with respect to such product."
The change in policy to the relatively-autonomous editorial system has so far claimed one casualty. Reporter Greg Sandoval resigned in protest to the decision, posting on Twitter "I no longer have confidence that CBS is committed to editorial independence." A chilling effect may linger among CNet staffers, and could lead to more people leaving the company.
Editorial interference instigated by outside companies have hit CNet before. In 2007, GameSpot Editorial Director Jeff Gerstmann was fired from his position as a result of external pressure from Eidos Interactive, after criticizing Kane & Lynch: Dead Men while the game was heavily advertised on the site. His firing prompted other staff members to also leave, later to form another gaming site, Giant Bomb.