This week, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed criticizing the agency’s Critical Information Needs (CIN) study, which will ask media outlets a host of questions about how they decide which stories to run. TF’s Berin Szoka discussed the implications of the study, and responded to criticisms that Pai publicly critiquing an FCC action was “uncollegial,” with Comm Daily (subscription only):

Pai needed to weigh in on the CIN studies through an op-ed because commissioners have yet to be given a formal opportunity to comment on the studies, said TechFreedom President Berin Szoka in an interview. “This has been pushed by two past chairmen [Genachowski and Clyburn] who never gave commissioners a chance to weigh in on this,” said Szoka. “The real story here is the process failure.”

There doesn’t have to be an overt plan to dictate coverage to newsrooms for the CIN studies to affect coverage, said Szoka, echoing Pai’s op-ed. Because of the FCC’s regulatory power over broadcasters, the mere act of a commission-sanctioned study asking questions about coverage could have a chilling effect, Szoka said. “The government being in the role of observer, actively collecting information will necessarily change how editorial judgment is exercised.”

For more on the chilling effect of FCC studies, check out this PFF blog on the agency’s 2010 inquiry into “the future of media and information needs of communities in a digital age.”