CNET reporter resigns over CBS intervention in award

Mon Jan 14, 2013 5:19pm EST

* Dish's newest 'Hopper' DVR initially won Best of CES award

* CBS intervened to stop award over legal fight with Dish

* CNET editor decries "impossible situation"

* CBS: unique matter, CNET has 100 pct editorial independence

By Liana B. Baker

Jan 14 (Reuters) - CBS Corp continues to experience fallout from its decision to stop its technology blog CNET from giving an industry award to satellite television operator Dish Network Corp during last week's Consumer Electronics Show.

On Monday, high-profile CNET writer Greg Sandoval resigned from the technology blog, saying on Twitter that he was unsure of CBS' commitment to editorial independence.

His resignation was prompted by CBS' decision last week to intervene and prevent CNET from giving a "Best of CES" award to the latest version of Dish's "Hopper" digital video recorder due to ongoing litigation between the two companies over the device.

Later on Monday, Lindsey Turrentine, the editor in chief of CNET Reviews, who remains with CNET, posted a statement saying that CBS put her and her staff in an "impossible situation as journalists."

Last week at CES, Dish unveiled the latest version of its controversial digital video recorder, dubbed the "Hopper with Sling," that gives consumers the ability to stream live TV and recorded programs outside the home, among other features.

CNET, which publishes reviews of products as well as news stories, chooses the winners for the "Best of CES" awards at the trade show each year. The blog initially chose the "Hopper" as this year's winner, but Turrentine said CBS, which owns the widely followed blog, soon intervened and alerted it to the legal conflict over the Hopper.

Dish is already embroiled in a legal battle with all the major broadcast networks, including CBS, over the DVR's first iteration, which has an "autohop" function that allows subscribers to skip commercials automatically when they are watching recorded shows. Dish maintains that its 14 million subscribers desperately want such a feature.

But CBS and its broadcasting brethren - Disney's ABC, Comcast's NBC, and News Corp's FOX - argue that Dish is undermining the networks' key source of revenue: advertising.

The latest version of the DVR is likely to spark more litigation, analysts say.

Dish ignited the controversy last Thursday by putting out a press release saying it had been barred from receiving the award.

According to Turrentine, CBS forced CNET to disqualify Dish and did not let CNET issue a transparent statement about what happened.

In a statement, CBS described the incident as "isolated and unique" and said that "in terms of covering actual news, CNET maintains 100 percent editorial independence, and always will."

Dish did not respond to a request for comment but said last week that it was disappointed in CBS' "heavy-handed tactics."

This isn't the first public posturing between Dish and CBS. In September, Dish Chief Executive Joseph Clayton called CBS' CEO Les Moonves a "bully" for threatening to pull the No. 1 broadcast network off of its systems because of the ad-skipping capabilities of the Hopper.

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