Greg Sandoval, a senior writer for technology website CNET and one of the publication’s most respected and prominent voices, has resigned from his position in protest over CNET’s editorial independence apparently being undermined by its parent company, CBS, last week at the 2013 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES).
CBS stepped into CNET’s coverage of CES last week after learning that the tech site was planning to award Dish Network’s (Nasdaq: DISH) Hopper set-top box a “Best of CES" award. CBS is currently involved in a legal battle with Hopper over its commercial-skipping feature, which CBS lawyers charge with copyright infringement against broadcast networks.
"Sad to report that I've resigned from CNET," Sandoval announced Monday morning on Twitter. "I no longer have confidence that CBS is committed to editorial independence."
DISH introduced a new version of its acclaimed Hopper TV recording system last week at CES 2013, garnering glowing reviews from many tech writers including those working at CNET. The new “Hopper with Sling” was even nominated for CNET’s coveted “Best of CES” awards, but by the time the awards were announced on Jan. 10, Dish’s nominee had conspicuously vanished from the list.
CNN reports that after CNET announced its “Best of CES” candidates, the CBS corporate office "laid down a ban: CNET won't be allowed to even review Dish products, much less give them awards."
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The page for CNET’s review of Hopper was then updated with a statement that "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."
"We are saddened that CNet's staff is being denied its editorial independence because of CBS's heavy-handed tactics," DISH CEO Joe Clayton said in a statement after site removed the Hopper from consideration.
"CNET wasn't honest about what occurred regarding Dish," Sandoval said on Twitter Monday morning.
Shortly after the website originally removed the Hopper with Sling from its “Best of CES” rankings, CNET said on its official Twitter feed that it was withdrawing its reviews of “products involved in active litigation,” adding that this editorial shit “applies only to reviews, not news.”
Shortly before Sandoval made his resignation public on Monday morning, The Verge reported that the Hopper with Sling was originally chosen as the winner of CNET’s “Best of Show” award, but CBS CEO Leslie Moonves forced the website’s hand in removing the product from consideration by way of CBS Interactive News senior-vice president and General Manager Mark Larkin.
Among Dish’s opponents in Broadcast media, Moonves was particularly strident, reportedly telling investors at one point that "Hopper cannot exist... if Hopper exists, we will not be in business with (Dish)."
CNET’s dishonesty in its handling of the Hopper review was “unacceptable,” to Sandoval.
“We are supposed to be truth tellers," Sandoval said.
Sandoval added that "no one in News or Reviews editorial did anything wrong. I believe CNET's leaders are also honest but used poor judgment."
"CBS and CNET were great to me," he concluded. "I just want to be known as an honest reporter."