So was The Sun mulling it over, or was it a publicity stunt? Or rather, publicity smut, depending on your attitude toward the British Sun’s traditional bare-chested Page Three girl. The news buzzing around the media was that Britain’s most popular paper was going to dump its daily breasts, a feature the paper adopted in 1970, shortly after Rupert Murdoch bought it. With Wednesday’s paper bare of a semi-nude lady on page 3, with her reappearance on Thursday, it is interesting to note the differences in the coverage of the return to uncovering. On Thursday, with a winking topless gal of 22, The Sun apologized for its “mammary lapse.”
The Guardian’s take appears to be that The Sun was sincerely mulling it over after criticism from women’s groups and politicians. Lucy Anne Holmes, founder of the No More Page 3 campaign was dismayed. Labour MP Stella Creasy compared the Sun to a “letchy uncle at a wedding who doesn’t get the message.” (Eww..don’t think I’ll be crashing her family get-togethers). Julia Churchill said it was like a “good deep breath, after being held under water, and now, a punch in the face.” (I don’t think I’ll go swimming with Julia)
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Head of PR at The Sun, Dylan Sharpe tweeted, “I said that in speculation and not to trust reports by people unconnected to The Sun. A lot of people are about to look very silly.”
Does Sharpe think The London Times is silly, since it was the Times that reported that the tabloid was “quietly dropping” the page 3 tradition and that Murdoch had signed off on it?
CBS, though, seems to believe Murdoch was laughing from the start. What better way to raise publicity for the paper and stick it to protesters by threatening to take the Page 3 girl away to demonstrate how popular she is, and how many news stories she would generate. I was half expecting to see an obituary for the Page 3 girl in the London Times and a State Funeral with a huge brassiere instead of a casket. In a way, threatening to pull the Page 3 girl was Murdoch’s way, perhaps, of ensuring she would remain for the ages (or perhaps, given the Labour MP’s dirty old man comment, mainly for the aged). And after all, the people who object to the Page 3 girl are not exactly avid readers of the tabloid. The tongue in cheek nature of the ploy is reflected in what was written in The Sun when the Page 3 girl returned, “We would like to apologise on behalf of the print and broadcast journalist who have spent the last 2 days talking and writing about us.”