Some of you may be aware of a recent CBS policy switch (CBS owns CNET) restricting what products CNET may review. Media writer Jim Romenesko emailed me yesterday to ask about it. I thought there might be broader interest, so I'm sharing my response with him below. Here's Jim's separate writeup:



Thanks for your email. I hope you're well -- I always enjoy reading your articles. I've copied Jen, who does PR for CNET and may be able to provide you with additional background.

I don't feel it's appropriate to discuss any internal deliberations. I can say that I'm not aware of other media companies that have similar policies.

Take the lawsuits against Barry Diller's Aereo video-streaming service. My CNET reviews colleague John Falcone published a news article yesterday about Aereo saying: "Disclosure: CBS, the parent corporation of CNET, is currently in active litigation with Aereo as to the legality of its service. As a result of that conflict of interest, CNET cannot review that service going forward."

CBS, the Walt Disney Company, News Corp., Comcast, the Tribune Company, and other media companies filed copyright infringement lawsuits against Aereo in March 2012. The copyright claims are very similar to the ones at issue in the lawsuit against Dish; one of the complaints filed in the southern district of New York accuses Aereo of "willful copyright infringement" and says it "just helps itself" unlawfully to copyrighted content.

The Wall Street Journal's Katie Boehret (who reviews products along with Walt Mossberg, as I'm sure you know) reviewed Aereo three months after the litigation began. Boehret concluded: "It has a thoughtful, clean user interface that works well on the iPad, where I tested it most.. If you're a fan of TV and want a better way to watch it on the go, Aereo is a pleasure." The WSJ is owned by News Corp., which is in active litigation with Aereo. ( published a review of Aereo this month. It said: "I've been trying out Aereo since September to record and watch all sorts of programs on Aereo — both highbrow shows such as 'Downton Abbey' and guilty-pleasure ones such as 'Revenge...' It makes cutting cable service tempting." ABC News is owned by Walt Disney, which is in active litigation with Aereo.

The Chicago Tribune published a syndicated review of streaming services including Aereo, which said "the most exciting development might be a scrappy start-up called Aereo that lets you watch TV on any Web-connected device with a screen via a network of miniaturized antennas." The newspaper is owned by the Tribune Company, which is in active litigation with Aereo.

It's true that CBS has the right to set the editorial policies that CNET journalists must abide by. And it's also true that this policy is prominently disclosed to our readers. But I'm not aware of other media companies that have enacted a similar policy.

Thanks again for the email.

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