Just How Dumb Is It For CBS To Block CNET From Giving Dish An Award?

from the count-the-ways dept

As you may or may not recall, last year, pretty much all the TV networks sued Dish Networks over a new feature it had launched, PrimeTime Any Time (PTAT), with its Autohopper technology on its DVRs. PTAT is where it would automatically record all the major networks’ prime time programming and hold onto it for a bit. Autohopper would then automatically skip over the commercials. It’s important to recognize that these features, on their own, have been considered legal. VCRs had auto commercial skip ages ago and DVR technology (time shifting) has been called fair use plenty of times. Given that, the lawsuits aren’t going well so far.

But, in a moment of pure stupidity, some very short-sighted suits at CBS made a really silly decision. As you may or may not have heard, CES — the massive consumer electronics show — has been going on all this week in Las Vegas. I just got back from there myself. At the show, Dish announced another merging of some of its products, adding its Slingbox (who they bought years back) to the same basic setup. Slingbox, of course, is for “place shifting” what the DVR is for “time shifting.” You hook it up to your TV and it lets you access what’s playing on your TV via the internet (so, via your computer, phone or tablet). It’s hardly surprising that this is where Dish was heading.

And… the early reviews and buzz were definitely strong. For example, CNET wrote a glowing review in which executive editor David Carnoy suggested it may be the best DVR out there these days. The CNET crew liked the thing so much that they nominated it for their “Best of CES” award.

And… then the suits at CNET parent company CBS noticed. And suddenly they told CNET that it had to remove the Dish Hopper with Sling from consideration for the Best of CES award and that it was no longer allowed to review any Dish products. CNET editors appended the following note to their review:

Editors’ note: The Dish Hopper with Sling was removed from consideration for the Best of CES 2013 awards 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.

This is monumentally stupid, for a variety of reasons. Let’s see how many we can come up with.

  1. Hello Streisand Effect. There were approximately one gazillion articles this week about products coming out of CES, and the place was wall to wall with journalists — probably half of whom were coming up with their own “best of” lists. Most people were completely saturated with CES stories and would barely glance at such a story. Except… now, tons of people are suddenly finding out about this awesome Dish DVR, the Hopper with Slingbox. In fact, they’re hearing that the damn thing is so good that CBS is trying to block any news of it from getting out. Talking about increasing the awareness… I have no clue whatsoever what product CNET — or any other publication — awarded “best of CES” to. But I sure as hell am well aware of Dish’s new DVR.
  2. Goodbye to the wall that separates the suits from the journalists at CBS/CNET. CBS execs have just confirmed that they don’t want their journalists and reviewers to cover things based on the merits, but rather on what it means for their corporate masters.
  3. Hello slippery slope. Is it really that hard to see where this heads next? Is CNET still allowed to report on the lawsuit if CBS loses? If they can’t talk about the products, what about the legal issues themselves?
  4. Goodbye journalists with credibility. Frankly, CNET has always had some of the strongest tech reporters in the business. For many years I’ve considered it one of the top tech news sites out there. I have tremendous respect for many of the reporters there. But, now I have to wonder how much the suits are interfering with their ability to report things accurately.
  5. Goodbye to principled journalists who want to work for CBS. If I’m a journalist at CNET right now, I’d be seriously considering quitting in protest. This move seriously harms the brand and reputation of the site, and this is the kind of thing that journalists should stand up against. Having the suits interfere with what they can write about is generally seen as a massive offense to journalists. I would bet this leads to some of the best, most principled CNET reporters jumping ship to elsewhere.
  6. Good luck to CNET hiring new journalists. Who wants to jump into that toxic situation?

CBS’s suits should have kept quiet and not interfered with the news side of the business. They had to know that this would backfire in a big bad way. And, if they didn’t know that, they deserve to lose their jobs for being pretty clueless about things that matter.

Of course, they were probably thinking that Dish would likely use the reviews from CNET as evidence in the lawsuit, which very well may be true (and could still happen since the review did go out). But it’s not hard to get around that, since the legal impact of a single review is near zilch. In the end, they didn’t stifle the review, they made it more well known. They didn’t do anything that helps them in their lawsuit. And they’re left with an undoubtedly pissed off set of journalists who may now question how free they are to actually report the news.

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Companies: cbs, cnet, dish

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Comments on “Just How Dumb Is It For CBS To Block CNET From Giving Dish An Award?”

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76 Comments
Aria Company (profile) says:

“Frankly, CNET has always had some of the strongest tech reporters in the business.”
No. The site stopped being credible in the last decade, when it was bought by CBS.

Only a fool believes otherwise.

It’s like Ars Technica, who lost its credibility when it was bought by Conde Nast.

When reading those articles from these sources, one had best have lots of grains of salt nearby.

They’ll need them and for precisely the reason outlined in the article.

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I have seen some once good tech sites turn into PR outlets for their corporate owners (The Register comes to mind), but I have never considered either CNET or Ars to be in that category.

Although I’ll need to take CNET of the list, Ars is still quality tech news – at least until there is evidence it isn’t.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Then how many examples to the contrary could you find me?

Heck, how many of these sources would dare allow someone to use their monopolized communication mediums to challenge their government established monopoly status? and why wouldn’t they allow such challenges to be heard over their monopolized medium? Because it’s not in their best interests. IOW, what they are giving you is watered down propaganda.

Most of these mediums are very pro-IP and they seldom, if ever, allow IP criticisms to be communicated. and to the extent that they do, it is minimal. To the extent that they have gotten slightly better at this it’s only because of the Internet’s influence on the media. Even this telecast entirely works under the presumption that pharmaceutical patents are a good thing without allowing criticisms to even be heard. Tell me this is not propaganda.

Heck, major ISP’s would censor websites criticizing them from their users if it weren’t for free speech laws preventing that (and in the early days of the Internet various ISP’s have tried to censor various websites from their users and either public backlash or court rulings have caused them to change their mind).

bergmayer says:

Re: Re:

I’ve been reading Ars since 1999 or so and it’s as good as it ever had been. It has, however, morphed from a PC enthusiast site to an intelligent technology news site.

For the kinds of low-level hardware analysis that Ars used to be known for, I read Anandtech (which has been around just as long, but has been maturing over the years).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Agreed. CNET went downhill long, long ago, and you’d have to be incredibly naive to think otherwise.

I gave up on them, I want to say around 7 years ago, when I got banned from their forums for showing journalistic integrity.

Not to mention download.com has been a festering cesspool of CNET-sponsored adware and bloat for the better part of the last decade, despite “tested adware-free” still being part of their slogan. It’s so bad now I’d sooner go to shady Russian sites for my freeware downloads.

el_segfaulto (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I’ve always judged both sites by the intelligence of their commentators. The people commenting on CNET stories sound barely high-school educated and willing to prove to the world how little knowledge they have. Ars seems to be doing a bit better and attracts a more intelligent crowd. This may not always be a good thing as any regular reader of /. will tell you.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Stretching...

So then YouTube should ban all Viacom properties?

Google should censor all articles from the search engine that say anything remotely nice about the EU?

CNET is not in litigation, CBS is.

We should expect all of the media companies that are now just subdivisions of other major corporations to filter out any actual news that covers anyone they are suing?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Stretching...

Maybe, but from a trust-standpoint it is the definition of what every european state-owned news-source has done everything to avoid. Given the fact that it is journalists loosing the right to write articles on a certain subject, it is the textbook definition of censorship. So censorship has existed for 150 years? Well it is about time it stops in the “free world”, dont you think?

Frankly the “free world” in the west should probably be trademarked and have a forced mention of “brought to you by…”

DCL says:

Re: Re: Re: Stretching...

The ‘differences’ you point out are irrelevant since the underlying fact that the “suits” have now imposed their heavy hand has challenged the basic principle around the freedom of journalism.

For true journalism having the freedom to write about the truth is what is important. It is the reason we have the 1st amendment.

Sure this is a private business here, but the principle and concepts are the same. As soon as there are business rules regarding what is ok and not ok to report you lose your freedom as a journalist in that environment.

WysiWyg (profile) says:

Re: Stretching...

Surely the opinion of a couple of journalists employed by a daughter-company can’t really have that much of an impact on something like this? It’s not like it’s CBS’s Official Opinion in the matter.

Besides, I don’t think the lawsuit is about whether Dish delivers on it’s promises or not, but whether those promises are illegal or not.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Stretching...

“If two companies are in litigation, it doesn’t seem that legally wise to have the one that’s doing the suing publish an article extolling the virtues of the one being sued.”

CNET is a news service.
Their parent, CBS, is in litigation with Dish.
According to you, boy, CNET shouldn’t report news regarding the CBS/Dish suit if it involves a negative result for CBS?

You obviously don’t know what journalism is about.
But you DO have a handle on propaganda!

BeaverJuicer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Stretching...

Their is a huge difference between reporting news of the suit, and publishing an opinion piece saying this thing is the next best thing since sliced bread, when your corporate masters are trying to denounce it.

Just like it would be legally foolish to publish an opinion piece saying it is a box of donkey scrotum rubbed in skunk feces, as that may only lead to your liability.

The safest out, just don’t do a review of the product.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Stretching...

There is a huge difference between reporting news of the suit, and publishing an opinion piece saying this thing is the next best thing since sliced bread, when your corporate masters are trying to denounce it.

corrected first word for you

A review that says a piece of technology has a great functionality has nothing to do with whether the functionality is legal. Saying I like it is not the same as saying it is legal.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Stretching...

If two companies are in litigation, it doesn’t seem that legally wise to have the one that’s doing the suing publish an article extolling the virtues of the one being sued.

Fair enough if they are just a new analysis and commentary site. But if the work is influenced by litigation in this way, that work cannot be journalism.

Anonymous Coward says:

Your point #2 has always been a problem

Ultimately all media is owned by someone and that someone controls what you see/read and how it is presented. Unfortunately most people don’t seem to understand that. Just take Fox News as an example. They are the only news organization showing you the other side of a lot of issues. Maybe they are extreme sometimes, maybe even wrong, but can you honestly say that CNN, CBS, ABC, NBC, MSNBC aren’t? Fox is the only news organization that presents the other side of the coin. All the rest might as well be one organization.

Ed C. says:

Re: Your point #2 has always been a problem

Except that Fox is not only just as bought and controlled by corporate interest as their major network competitors, they’re rabidly biased. I’d call the others merely biased in comparison, but I don’t really trust any of them as they all sold out to yellow journalism to retain their shrinking pool of viewers. Fox was the great forerunner here, the others are just trying to catch up in their race to the bottom.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Your point #2 has always been a problem

Oh I don’t deny they are as controlled as anyone else, I am merely making the point that many, many people seem to think Fox is the only one who is biased or pushing a point of view. They somehow think the other news agencies are bastions of truth and light. BTW, the others are as rabidly biased as Fox.

Ed C. says:

Re: Re: Re: Your point #2 has always been a problem

BTW, the others are as rabidly biased as Fox.

No, I stand by my point that the others are not as biased as Fox, they’re just trying to catch up. Fox news started playing dirty tactics to, successfully, attract viewers. The others merely started imitating Fox’s anti-professional style to hold on to their share of the shrinking pool of viewers who are even willing to watch TV news.

anonymouse says:

Re: Your point #2 has always been a problem

Seriously, this is not a site to preach your republican talking points, this is not a political site, it is a tech site and I am not interested in hearing how faux news is somehow even in the same ballpark as a real news channel, it is not and never will be.CNN,CBS,ABC,NBC,MSNBC are news channels, FOX news is a propaganda tool for the republican far right.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Your point #2 has always been a problem

Sorry, you must have this site confused with another as it often has political discussions on it. Also, you are one of the people I am referring to when I made the statement people think Fox is unique in the news industry. You are like people who watch wrestling. They will tell you they know its fake but when they watch it they get all excited and yell at the TV and the wrestlers.

Lord of the Files says:

Re: Re: Re: Your point #2 has always been a problem

All this talk about reporting just “one side” is making me laugh. Reporting only one side of something news worthy, regardless of which side that is, shows very plainly just how biased a lot of these corporate owned news organizations really are.

The right way to do it is to accurately convey the whole story to the public without any interjected opinions or embellishments, and let the public decide for themselves how they feel about it and take sides if they so wish.

Nowadays, mostly due to vested corporate interests, the news is presented in a way that tells the public what to think instead of letting us make up our own minds. The easiest way to accomplish that is by reporting in a clearly biased manner only one side of the story. Some folks are able to see through this charade, but most aren’t.

It also doesn’t help that the reporting of news in the 21st century went from being a serious, honorable profession, to one that is a joke thanks mostly to the entertainment format it’s often presented in. Not only is it biased, it’s been dumbed down to make sure the widest possible audience is influenced by whatever message it is you want them to believe. Anything counter to the corporate welfare isn’t reported at all, copyright issue being an excellent example of this.

The only way to get an accurate picture these days is to get your news from as many sources as possible before forming an opinion. Unfortunately we live in a relatively lazy society where doing this is just too much effort for most folks. Easier to just take what Fox News is saying at face value and believe it (just replace Fox with your favorite entertainment based news source).

Ed C. says:

Aside from the appalling dissolution of journalistic integrity for the sake of corporate interest, I can’t help but notice that the “features” Dish is being praised for–time and place shifting–are nothing but ridiculous kludges to transfer content from an archaic mode of distribution to what people expect of the modern era–digital storage and on-demand access. Of course, none of these kludges would be necessary if it weren’t for companies like CBS burning money to shore up their legacy business model against the ever increasing demands of the market.

Chosen Reject (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Precisely. Had CBS offered their own content online years ago, people would be coming to their site to watch the shows letting CBS monetize it how they wish. Instead, they left open a gap for someone to come in and serve their customers. They could have made a service that would make Dish irrelevant. They still can. But they choose the court room instead.

Ed C. says:

Re: Re: Re:

I totally agree. However, the ones who have been the most vocal against networks moving online are the local affiliates, because they get nothing out of it. They depend on local advertizing to meet their budgets, but the network’s online portal cuts them out of the loop. Personally, I think the networks should let the locals setup their own steaming services, so they can both offload bandwidth from the network, and be free to run local ads or any other business models to cover cost. It would be cheaper than running a broadcast tower almost 24/7 and most people have a box of some kind connected to their TV anyway.

Overcast (profile) says:

I won’t do dish because of the stupid contracts – sorry, but I will NOT enter into a contract for freakin’ TV.

But in any event – if not for my DVR, I wouldn’t watch TV at all. The ‘hopper’ is the only thing that’s ever tempted me to look at dish; and if I had it, I’d watch a lot more TV.

But lengthy commercial breaks… are HISTORY for me, if I’m ‘forced’ to watch them – I won’t watch at all, I’ll go Netflix or just video game more.

Keep them short, to the point and I don’t mind watching a few ads. Run them long and annoying – like AMC, SciFI, etc – and I won’t watch your network at all, because it’s just not worth watching the butchering of shows.

Anonymous Coward says:

the most important thing to ‘the suits’ is and always has been/will be to report on what they want reported on, not what they want everyone else to know about. it has never been in their best interests to tell the public about something that is awesome but not under their control. this behaviour is everywhere, breeds contempt from the public and makes them even more keen on trying/getting the equipment as soon as possible. the best route is to keep quiet, but they only do that when they are up to no good!

Anonymous Coward says:

I wonder if this is less to do with the law suite and more to do with the hated technologies. The journal;ists were praising a device that records (we have to allow that), and skip adds (where we get our money), and remote viewing, (relatives ans friends anywhere in the world could be given access to American Television).
One box delivering all the things the suites object to no wonder the suites flipped.

Anonymous Coward says:

Nothing new here lol they’re always coming up with new useless technologies. Well a new name for them at least rofl..

Why do I say it’s useless?
1. These technologies should not been needed in the first place if the boneheads running the media would fucking embrace the internet.

2. The internet is a tool and one of the most powerful tools we have ever come to know of so far. It has redefined the world and how we all operate. It can be used for all kinds of shit like good shit,evil shit,stupid shit,important shit,funny shit, boring shit, fapping shit & shitty fapping if you’re a real pervert, gaming shit, chatting shit, reviewing shit & shitty reviews, and even talking shit.

Alright #2 was most likely not needed lol.

aidian says:

That distant thumping sound? It's Edward R Murrow spinning in his grave.

Wow. In the news business it’s called the wall between church and state. This is Journalism 101. The advertising folks are allowed to shameless whore themselves however they want and get paid big bucks for doing it. In exchange they raise the money needed to allow us underpaid schlubs in the newsroom to cover the news without fear or favor. The founder of the Chicago Tribune famously had different stairways for news and advertising employees just so they wouldn’t contaminate each other.

Now it’s never been as perfectly clean as all that, but it is the rule. To say it’s been tested by the near-implosion of the ad-supported media model is an understatement. But the idea that the business side would just flagrantly dictate editorial content is still so far beyond the pale that it leaves me at a loss for words. And I am never at a loss for words.

The charitable explanation for this is that CBS doesn’t consider CNET to be a ‘real’ news operation. You know, cuz they just piddle around with that newfangled interweb thing. If they were real journalists they’d be on the television.

I just pray that that’s the explanation. Because the other option is that this was the death of CBS News. I wonder what Ed Murrow would say about it?

aidian says:

Re: Re: That distant thumping sound? It's Edward R Murrow spinning in his grave.

I take it you don’t watch Fox News, else you’d permanently mute.

No. Never have. Just judging from the clips I’ve seen and reliable reports from others, I don’t really consider them a news organization. Every legit news person I’ve known who ever worked for them quit within a year or two.

On the other hand, it’s a brilliant play by Roger Ailes, creating a political action committee that turns a profit.

One could raise questions about the editorial/business relationship in opinion journalism. One could ask where MSNBC fits on that spectrum. But none of that’s relevant to CBS self-immolating its credibility.

Anonymous Coward says:

I may be alone in that I like the “structure” the TV schedule affords me in my life.
It places a responsibility on me to be where I need to be at a certain time that influences my approach to other appointments.

And I don’t know about you, but I honestly enjoy the commercial breaks that accompany my nightly viewing!
No commercials would mean less tasty snacks during my favorite shows as well as providing the perfect pause in programming to make use of the “Original Hopper”.

I am happy without the Dish’s Hopper, its shifting time schedules or locations.
Really who wants one of those ugly dishes on their roof or to watch a show on your 4″ phone anyway?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I’m confused, you’re happy with Dish’s Hopper for time shifting and/or locations, but you also like the “structure” that is offered by a TV schedule.

Even if the TV structure changed to be an always available on demand video streaming surface, I can’t imagine any reason why they couldn’t stick to making videos available at a specific schedule. They could even stagger release times to get the same effect as TV. The only difference would be that, after it was first broadcast, it would be available perpetually when, and where you wanted it.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It places a responsibility on me to be where I need to be at a certain time that influences my approach to other appointments.

So you’re reliant on TV programming in order to be able to manage the rest of your life? I think there’s something askew there.

No commercials would mean less tasty snacks during my favorite shows as well as providing the perfect pause in programming to make use of the “Original Hopper”.

It doesn’t mean that for me. I just press “pause” anytime I want and go get snacks, etc.

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