CNET pulls out as producer of awards program after controversy

Dish has finally won its coveted CES award.

In a surprise reversal early Thursday, the Consumer Electronics Assn. named Dish’s Hopper DVR, which includes Sling, as Best of Show, joining the Razer Edge gaming tablet as co-winner of the top prize at the 2013 Best of CES Awards. At the same time, CNET has pulled out as producer of the Best of CES awards program.

Move follows CBS’ controversial decision earlier this month to prevent CNET from awarding Dish the top prize at CES, which caused Dish to take out national ads accusing the Eye of censoring the editors of the tech website. CBS owns CNET and is in a legal dispute with Dish over the ad-skipping capabilities of the Hopper.

After the Hopper was removed from consideration and the editors revoted, CNET named the Razer Edge as Best of Show.

“The CNET editorial team identified the Hopper Sling as the most innovative product of the show, and we couldn’t agree more,” said Karen Chupka, senior VP, events and conferences for CEA. “The Hopper with Sling and the Razer Edge both represent the best of the exciting, innovative technology introduced at the 2013 CES. We are pleased to recognize both products as Best of Show.”

“We appreciate the International CES’ decision to stand with the consumer in the acknowledgement of this award,” said Dish president and CEO Joseph Clayton in a statement. “With today’s announcement, the Consumer Electronics Association demonstrates the roles innovation and leadership must play in our industry. I regret that the award has come in the face of CBS’ undermining of CNET’s editorial independence. We look forward to continuing our longstanding relationship with CNET’s editorial staff and hope they are able return to their long tradition of unbiased evaluation and commentary of the industry’s products and services.”

As part of the move, CNET will no longer review products manufactured by companies with which CBS Corp. is in active litigation with respect to the legality of the specific product. Last week, CEA joined several leading tech groups in filing an amicus brief in support of Dish Networks in the suit over the Hopper.

“We are shocked that the ‘Tiffany’ network, which is known for its high journalistic standards, would bar all its reporters from favorably describing classes of technology the network does not like,” said CEA president and CEO Gary Shapiro. “We believe that the Dish Hopper DVR is fully covered by the Supreme Court’s ruling in Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios Inc. The simple fact is making television easier to watch is not against the law. It is simply pro-innovation and pro-consumer.”

CNET will still continue to attend CES.

“As the No. 1 tech news and reviews site in the world, CNET is committed to delivering in-depth coverage of consumer electronics,” said Mark Larkin, senior VP and general manager of CNET. “We look forward to covering CES and the latest developments from the show as we have for well over a decade.”

Yet with CNET stepping aside as the sponsor of the Best of CES awards, CEA will soon seek proposals for a new partner.

“CES has enjoyed a long and productive partnership with CNET and the Best of CES awards,” Chupka said. “However, we are concerned the new review policy will have a negative impact on our brand should we continue the awards relationship as currently constructed. We look forward to receiving new ideas to recognize the ‘best of the best’ products introduced at the International CES.”

CBS did not have a comment.

Meanwhile, legal action from the studios continues. Fox is appealing a federal judge’s decision that has allowed Dish to continue AutoHop. The studio’s frustration was apparent in the first line of a brief it filed with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal on Thursday, taking aim at the notion that the networks are the dinosaurs out to stop Dish’s innovations.

Fox said, “This case is not about time-shifting, the Sony-Betamax, consumer ‘choice,’ technological innovation, the right to get a sandwich during a commercial, roosters, henhouses, or anything Jack Valenti said in 1982.”

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