On Sunday SFLTV first broke the news WFOR fired Josh Benson allegedly because of his review of Aereo. This prompted the station to email us an official statement saying Benson was fired “for his operation of a personal website that streamed the station’s newscasts without the knowledge and consent of the station”. If you’re a tech geek you will be forgiven if you thought right away that Benson plugged his cable box into his internet connection and broadcast CBS4 all day long on Ustream. That does not seem to be the case.
Now here’s why SFLTV thinks Josh Benson’s review of Aereo had everything to do with his firing, and why CBS and WFOR are probably full of you know what when it comes to the their excuse about why they canned him.
This is screenshot from a cached version of the page or post Benson published about the CBS4 live stream. It shows that he embedded the CBS4 video player from WFOR’s website on his page. The embed code is clearly visible in the player, and is available to anyone who wants to use it on their website. Like this.
Josh Benson’s post with the embedded CBS4 video player had been up for at least two months, going back as early as July. I didn’t think to look up his old tweets to see whether he tweeted that link out or not but regardless, it had been there for a long while. And as already established he was embedding the station’s video player, something anyone can do.
Sometime on the evening of August 29 Josh Benson tweets he is watching CBS4 news using Aereo, the streaming service that rents people an over-the-air antenna and a DVR. It’s backed by billionaire Barry Diller, and CBS boss Les Moonves hates it so much he’s suing (and losing) to stop it. No cable contract says Benson, whose employer, and WFOR owner CBS, was in the middle of a bitter battle all trough out August with Time Warner Cable, demanding the cable company’s customers pay CBS $2/month just for the local CBS-owned TV station. Which people can get free with an over-the-air antenna.
But then, a bit later on August 29th at 6:44:08 pm Josh Benson tweets for the first time his review of Aereo. In January 2013 during CES, CBS prevented its parent company CNET from awarding Aereo their Best of CES 2013 award at the last minute. It also forbade CNET journalists from reviewing the service. The network didn’t back out of its decision even as the tech media pounced and thousands of negative comments followed, many questioning CNET’s editorial integrity.
On August 30th at 05:34:43am Josh Benson tweets his Aereo review again, this time while at work anchoring the morning news.
Later that day while driving home from work, as GossipExtra reports, WFOR management called Benson back to the station and fired him after he allegedly “refused to resign quietly”.
WFOR’s official story is that they fired their main morning anchor, the man who is part of the “fastest growing morning newscast”, because he streamed the station’s newscasts without permission using the video embed code the station makes freely available to anyone. And it just so happens one day after said morning anchor publishes a glowing review of CBS and Les Monves arch nemesis Aereo.