Skip to main content

Campaigners push for Page 3 cover up at Murdoch's Sun

By Simon Rushton, CNN
updated 11:09 AM EDT, Thu April 4, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Campaigners hope UK's biggest newspaper will stop publishing topless model photos
  • Rupert Murdoch, owner of The Sun, tweeted the Page 3 girl might be outdated
  • Even one former model now says it is time for Page 3 to end
  • The Sun uses its models in journalism campaigns and marketing

(CNN) -- The UK's highest selling newspaper may be embarking on a giant cover up -- much to the delight of its critics -- and putting an end to a tradition opponents see as sexist and outdated.

The Sun's topless model on Page 3 has been a tradition since the 1970s. A photo of a bare-breasted young woman along with a corny caption was the newspaper's way of giving its largely male readers a break from the often depressing news of the day.

Page 3 quickly became part of The Sun's brand, making the transition from black and white photos to color, then onto the paper's website. Page 3 models often support The Sun's campaigning journalism and are taken on tours to meet serving military.

Nudity in newspapers is not the exclusive domain of The Sun. The press and advertising campaigns will often use flesh to draw in the eyeballs in parts of Europe.

British glamor model Samantha Fox enjoyed brief success as a pop star.
British glamor model Samantha Fox enjoyed brief success as a pop star.

But now The Sun's owner Rupert Murdoch -- in one tweet -- has raised the specter of a world without Page 3. Murdoch said: "@Kazipooh page three so last century! You maybe right, don't know but considering. Perhaps halfway house with glamorous fashionistas."

Murdoch later tempered this, saying it was the editor's call. But it was music to the ears of campaigners at "No More Page Three." The campaign was started by Lucy Holmes when she realized the day after Jessica Ennis won Olympic gold in the heptathlon for Great Britain last summer "the largest female image in The Sun was of a young woman showing her breasts."

On April 1, it had 88,000 signatures supporting an end to Page 3. The Sun sells 2.28 million copies a day and has many more readers as each copy sold is read by friends or family.

A spokesperson for News International said: "In a YouGov survey commissioned last October almost two thirds of Sun readers voted to keep the Page 3 format and notably it has more than seven million readers daily of which 45 per cent are female. It remains the UK's biggest selling newspaper which means its formula -- brilliant journalism, entertainment, outstanding sports writing -- and Page 3, is working."

The YouGov survey also found readers of most of the other national papers were more likely to favor an end to the Sun's Page 3.

As an MP, Clare Short tried to pass a law that would ban topless models in newspapers.
As an MP, Clare Short tried to pass a law that would ban topless models in newspapers.

Meanwhile, the UK media landscape is changing after the Leveson Inquiry into phone hacking. Sun staffers have been arrested, its sister paper The News of the World was closed by Murdoch and codes of conduct are being imposed on the media. The emphasis is on ethics, and that might not sit well on Page 3.

One anti-Page 3 campaigner, Laura Ashton, told CNN: "It's exploitative, it's from the 1970s, and the girls back then were very young they were putting in the newspaper. They're not much older now. But it really feels very outdated, that kind of sexism."

Others have tried before. Clare Short was a leading Labour Party MP when in 1986 she tried unsuccessfully to push through legislation that would have outlawed topless models in newspapers. In 2007, Short tried again, only for The Sun to launch a "Hands Off Our Page 3" campaign with models being driven by bus to pose outside to the former MP's home.

In the UK, topless and nude model magazines are largely restricted to the top shelves of stores where children can't reach them. Only a couple of newspapers containing nudity are put on bottom shelf.

Elsewhere in Europe, different standards apply in different markets with topless models used on advertising hoardings for everything from soap to sweaters.

Linda Lusaardi made her name as a Page 3 model but now says it may be time for its end.
Linda Lusaardi made her name as a Page 3 model but now says it may be time for its end.

Some of the UK's Page 3 models have used their exposure as launchpad for other careers. Sam Fox, perhaps the best-known of them, had a string of pop hits.

And Linda Lusardi, another pin-up of the 1980s, became an actress in long-running UK shows like "The Bill" and "Emmerdale."

But even Lusardi, voted by Sun readers in 2005 as the best Page 3 girl ever, said: "It's time for it to go. I really think things have moved on so far with the internet and with everything else that I don't feel that we really need that in our national newspapers anymore."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:53 AM EDT, Wed September 10, 2014
ISIS has captured the minds of a new generation of global jihadists. What does it mean for al Qaeda?
updated 11:26 PM EDT, Thu September 11, 2014
Think that U.S. President Barack Obama has done a back flip on Iraq and Syria? Think again.
updated 11:38 PM EDT, Thu September 11, 2014
Treated with all due respect, volcanoes can offer some stunning vistas. Just don't fall in.
updated 1:22 AM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
The blogger, the hacker, the PM... and Kim Dotcom? New Zealand's election campaign erupts in scandal.
updated 10:36 PM EDT, Wed September 10, 2014
In the aftermath of that deadly day, the enemy quickly became clear. But now a plurality of extremist threats tests global resolve.
updated 9:21 AM EDT, Wed September 10, 2014
Soviets put stray dogs into orbit. Then, next thing you know...
updated 5:28 AM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
Her name is Thokozile Matilda Masipa, and she is the woman who will rule whether Oscar Pistorius is a murderer.
updated 10:48 AM EDT, Tue September 9, 2014
As a 10-year-old, this boy first hit the headlines in 1982 when he saved his cat from a fire. This year, he was reported to be a suicide bomber.
updated 11:17 AM EDT, Wed September 10, 2014
After months -- if not years -- of speculation, the tech giant's first foray into wearables has arrived. Here are our first impressions.
updated 8:41 AM EDT, Wed September 10, 2014
Steven Sotloff's family believes ISIS paid rebels to alert the group about his location in Syria.
updated 4:05 AM EDT, Wed September 10, 2014
Bali might be a popular tourist destination but there are crowd-free corners worth exploring.
updated 7:20 AM EDT, Wed September 10, 2014
Scots are preparing to vote on the future of their country. Will they decide to leave the UK?
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT