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  • Rupert Murdoch, owner of The Sun, tweeted the Page 3 girl might be outdated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a giant cover up -- much to the delight of its critics -- and putting an end to a tradition opponents see as sexist and outdated.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 9:54 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
A decade on from devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the Red Cross' Matthias Schmale says that the lessons learned have made us safer.
updated 7:24 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
As soon as word broke that "The Interview" will hit some theaters, celebrations erupted across social media -- including from the stars of the film.
updated 1:44 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Did a rogue hacker -- or the U.S. government -- cut the cord for the regime's Internet?
updated 8:06 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Monaco's newborn royals, Princess Gabriella and Crown Prince Jacques Honore Rainier, posed for their first official photos with their parents.
updated 12:06 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Tim Berners-Lee, the man credited with inventing the world wide web, gives a speech on April 18, 2012 in Lyon, central France, during the World Wide Web 2012 international conference on April 18, 2012 in Lyon.
What's next for the Internet? Acclaimed scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee shares his insights.
updated 3:22 AM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
The United States and North Korea have long been locked in a bitter cycle of escalating and deescalating tensions. But the current cyber conflict may be especially hard to predict.
updated 4:00 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
A chilling video shows Boko Haram executing dozens of non-Muslims.
updated 6:34 AM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
New planes, new flight tests ... but will we get cheaper airfares?
updated 12:46 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
The killing of two cops could not have happened at a worse time for a city embroiled in a public battle over police-community relations, Errol Louis says.
updated 9:51 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
The gateway to Japan's capital, Tokyo Station, is celebrating its centennial this month -- and it has never looked better.
updated 11:21 AM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
Unicef has warned that more than 1.7 million children in conflict-torn areas of eastern Ukraine face an "extremely serious" situation.
updated 12:01 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT