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CNET's conflict of interest obligates equal time

This post was the 434th comment to CNET Molly Wood's editorial blasting my NPR Morning edition commentary opposing Net neutrality. I appropriately bring to CNET's attention that they are not entirely disinterested corporate parties to the NN debate and should be more upfront about fully disclosing their potential financial conllict of interest. By the way, I have testified as an expert witness before both the Senate Commerce Committee and the House Financial Services Committee on the issue of conflicts of interest. I generally can spot a conflict of interest when I see one.

My posted comment on CNET:
Your point about old media and letters to the editor is a good one, as far as it goes, becuase net neutrality for CNET is not your average issue.

Net neutrality is an issue that represents a large potential conflict of interest for CNET. That potential journalistic conflict of interest is that corporate CNET could fear, just like the other online giants do, that their distribution costs would increase and their profits could decrease without a net neutrality law to ban that potentiality. 

Old media, newspapers and TV in particular, are generally responsible when reporting or editorializing about an issue that could matter to their own corporate bottom line; they fully disclose the conflict so their readers can filter that information fairly for themselves.

Jounalistic ethics and good business sense in this disclosure-obsessed Sarbanes-Oxley culture, argue for full disclosure and equal time to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest, which people know can sometimes be as problematic as an actual conflict of interest.
   

I personally believe that Molly's unprovoked zealous attack of my anti-net neutrality commentary on NPR's Morning Edition was heartfelt and most probably her own personal views and not the corporate line of CNET. However, Molly Wood's title, Executive Editor of CNET, could appear to some that she was shilling for her company in a not fully disclosed manner.

How old media handles issues where they have a potential conflict of interest, like mergers or media ownership rules, is to have an editorial policy where they bend over backwards to provide balanced coverage and equal time -- to stay above reproach. 

At a minimum, Molly should have fully disclosed upfront that her employer had a potential large financial conflict of interest on the outcome of net neutrality legislation. It also would have been relevant to mention the irony of her conflict of interest when she blasted me and other advocates for shilling for corporate interests.

I certainly have been fully disclosed that I and Netcompetition.org represent the broadband telecom, cable and wireless companies threatened by net neutrality regulation.
 

CNET could easily come clean on this by admiting they should have fully disclosed their potential financial conflict of interest up front or in the comment section over the last month of 433 comments; or by providing equal time in a guest column or a balanced podcast debate.

I personally believe both Molly and CNET were not trying to misrepresent that they had no potential financial stake in the outcome of the legislation. Now that they and their general counsel are aware that they at least have an appearance of a conflict of interest problem, I trust that they will do the right thing. 

 

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