When Ethics Come Into Play: CES Drops Two Major Partners
After a controversy, the Consumer Electronics Association has cut two of its biggest partners for the International Consumer Electronics Show. How do you decide when it’s OK to break free of partners? Has your association ever faced a controversy like CEA's?
The Consumer Electronics Association, the trade organization for the U.S. consumer electronics industry, recently made a game changing decision: It has officially dropped CBS and its subsidiary blog CNET as official partners in the “Best of CES” awards for the annual show.
The shift came after an ethics controversy, reported by TPM LiveWire, created by the 2013 “Best of CES” awards. CNET staffers voted the “Hopper With Sling,” (A DVR product made by satellite TV company DISH) for “Best of Show,” which is the highest honor at the event. But behind closed doors, CBS executives told CNET employees to cancel the award and disqualify the Sling because of ongoing litigation between CBS and DISH over the product, according to TPMLiveWire.
The Root Problem
CBS believes the Sling violates copyright since it allows consumers to skip commercials (several other networks, including FOX and NBC, agree with CBS). CNET adhered to CBS’ wishes and disqualified the Sling away from the public eye, which was later uncovered by another tech blog, The Verge. Further, CBS developed new editorial policy that prevented subsidiaries of CBS to cover anything whose “legality is being tested by CBS,” according to The Verge.
At least one writer, Greg Sandoval, quit the website over the policy, expressing over Twitter a lack of confidence “that CBS is committed to editorial independence.”
The Decision To Drop
As a result of the controversy, CES dropped both CNET and CBS as partners, and the product in question became a co-winner of the “Best of Show” for 2013. (The other winner was the Razer Edge gaming tablet.)
“CES has enjoyed a long and productive partnership with CNET and the Best of CES awards,” Karen Chupka, senior vice president of events and conferences for CEA said in a release. “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.”
By cutting ties with CNET and CBS, CEA officially backed the integrity of a product it believes in (the Sling) over its partners. The association is currently on the hunt for new partners and says it will soon issue an RFP for those interested.
Has your association ever been faced with an ethics issue regarding a partner? How did you handle it?