It's a decision as welcome as it is inevitable.
The Consumer Electronics Association announced Thursday that it will no longer use the Web site CNET to select the "Best of Show" award at its annual International CES tech extravaganza in Las Vegas.
The reason: the ham-fisted interference by CBS, which owns CNET, in the awards process this year.
CNET had chosen the Dish Network's Hopper with Sling, a DVR with ad-skipping capabilities, as the best of the best. But before the award was announced, CBS brass intervened and told CNET editors that there would be no award for the Hopper.
CBS and other networks are embroiled in a legal battle with Dish over the device, which allows viewers to skip lucrative primetime commercials. And so the Tiffany network tarnished itself by deciding there would be no prize for its rival. In announcing the decision, CNET said, "We will no longer be reviewing products manufactured by companies with which we are in litigation with respect to such product."
It was an outrageous example of business considerations trumping editorial integrity. It was a brutal blow to CNET's credibility. And it made CNET's role in the awards a mockery.
As a result, CEA announced it would look for a new partner in the awards program. "CES has enjoyed a long and productive partnership with CNET and the Best of CES awards," Karen Chupka, senior vice president for events and conferences, said in a statement. "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."
CEA President and CEO Gary Shapiro was scathing in his criticism of CBS for its role in the fiasco. "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," he said in a statement. He added, "The simple fact is making television easier to watch is not against the law. It is simply pro-innovation and pro-consumer."
Before CBS intervened, CNET had tweeted that the Hopper was one of the finalists. The Web site The Verge broke the news that CNET had actually declared the Hopper the winner before its staff was overruled.
After the Hopper was jettisoned, CNET selected the Razer Edge, a gaming tablet, as the Best of Show winner. But the CEA overruled CNET and on Thursday named the Hopper and the Razer Edge co-winners of the 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," Chupka said. "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."
Meanwhile, CBS provided a vivid example of the dangers of conglomerate media ownership. And it made a strong case for itself as Worst of Show.