While Congress is debating revival of the Fairness Doctrine, the Swedish government is taking action against the Oprah Winfrey show because it allegedly did not give a fair and balanced presentation of the arguments about whether to go to war with Iraq.

Sweden’s Broadcasting Commission told Reuters it is censuring the country’s TV4 for airing a show that displayed bias favoring a U.S. military attack.

Oprah Winfrey

“Different views were expressed, but all longer remarks gave voice to the opinion that Saddam Hussein was a threat to the United States and should be the target of attack,” the commission said.

The Swedish government strongly opposed the war, saying it lacked a U.N. Security Council mandate, Reuters noted.

The censure means the Swedish television network must publish the commission’s decision, but no legal or financial penalties will be issued, commission official Annelie Ulfhielm told the news agency.

The Oprah Winfrey show is one of Sweden’s more popular day-time television programs, with an audience of about 100,000-140,000, a spokesman for TV4 told Reuters.

Meanwhile, members of the U.S. House of Representatives are trying to revive the Fairness Doctrine, abandoned in 1987, which required radio and television stations to provide “balanced” coverage.

Opponents, however, argue the old Federal Communications Commission rule had an unintendend consequence, stifling controversy and free debate because station owners found it unmanageable to ensure “equal time” for every opposing opinion.

The rise of talk radio came in the wake of the Fairness Doctrine’ demise. In 1980, seven years before it was abandoned, there were 75 talk-radio stations in the U.S. Today, there are 1,300.

Related column:

Freedom of speech. Period.

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