CBS Censors CNET Over the Sling

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Last month, CBS forced its technology website CNET to pull an award it had given to Dish Network’s Hopper with Sling, a DVR that enables viewers to skip ads. CNET had given the product a best-in-show award at the recent International CES, a huge consumer electronics show. Unfortunately, the problem was that CBS was (and still is as of this writing) in litigation with Dish Network over the Hopper. The network claims that the Hopper’s “AutoHop” function, which allows viewers to skip ads, is an unlawful copyright infringement.

According to Kathleen Bartzen Culver, “CBS ordered CNET to revoke the award and stop reviewing products implicated in CBS lawsuits.” By promoting the Hopper with Sling, Culver writes, CBS felt “they were inherently supporting a violation of their own copyright and damage to their business model.”

Among the issues in this case are transparency and editorial independence. Even though CBS reported its interference with CNET’s independence, Culver thinks that the problem persists. “The company was forthright with its readers, but that does nothing to change the fact that it’s preempting perfectly valid reviews of currently legal devices and censoring them out of the audience’s reach,” she writes. CBS is apparently still interfering with CNET’s independence with its coverage of Aereo’s TV app. See the disclosure below taken from CNET’s website.

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Although Culver doesn’t mention it, I have to imagine that there are legal issues involved here and that CBS’s decision to pressure CNET originated in the network’s legal offices. That said, even if there is litigation involved is it right that CBS censored CNET?

Sources: PBSMediaShift, CNET.com

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