Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. will begin a Sunday edition of British tabloid the Sun this weekend, seven months after shutting another Sunday newspaper rocked by a phone-hacking scandal.
News International, the company’s U.K. publishing arm, plans to publish the Sun on Sunday on Feb. 26, spokeswoman Daisy Dunlop said by telephone. The Sun’s editor, Dominic Mohan, will also be in charge of the Sunday edition.
Murdoch’s announcement may soothe anger in the newsroom after the company’s Management and Standards Committee, formed by News Corp. to assist police in their investigations of phone-hacking and bribery, handed over information to police. It may also spark more clashes with U.K. politicians, with Murdoch announcing the decision before legislators publish a report into why News Corp. executives didn’t stop illegal activities.
“The Sun’s future can now be reshaped as a unique, seven-day proposition in both print and digital,” Mohan said in a statement in the Sun today. “Our readers’ reaction to the announcement of a seventh-day Sun has been huge and we won’t let them down.”
News Corp. has “made clear its determination to sort out what has gone wrong in the past and we are fundamentally changing how we operate as a business,” News International Chief Executive Officer Tom Mockridge said in an e-mail to employees yesterday. Murdoch will stay in London to oversee the start of the Sunday newspaper, Mockridge said.
During a visit to the Sun’s newsroom on Feb. 17, Murdoch, News Corp.’s chairman and CEO, said he will stay in London for several weeks to give his staff “unwavering support.” He spent two hours talking to journalists on the newsroom floor with son Lachlan, said a person familiar with the matter. James Murdoch, the former CEO of News International and now deputy chief operating officer of New York-based News Corp., didn’t fly to London because he had other commitments, the person said.
The News of the World was the best-selling Sunday paper in Britain when it was closed last July and its readers have dispersed to competing tabloids or stopped buying Sunday papers altogether. Its circulation reached 2.66 million in May 2011, more than twice its closest competitor in the national Sunday market, the Sunday Mirror, according to media researcher ABC.
The Sun had an 8.7 percent lift in circulation in January as News Corp. sold an average of 2.75 million issues of the tabloid a day, up from 2.53 million a month earlier. Overall daily newspaper sales rose 3 percent, according to the report.
The Sun, whose coverage includes celebrity news and soccer, is still selling fewer copies than a year ago as the industry grapples with readership and advertising declines.
Maurice Levy, CEO of the world’s third-biggest advertising company Publicis Groupe SA, said last year that News Corp. may quickly regain advertisers if the company creates “a new News of the World with much more ethical behavior.”
The closing of the News of the World was “just cynical,” said Chris Bryant, a lawmaker from the opposition Labour Party, who had sued the News of the World over phone-hacking. Tom Watson, the lawmaker who is helping prepare the report into News Corp. executives, said “this will not draw a line under the crisis faced by News Corp. in the U.K.”
Following the News of the World’s closure, Murdoch and his son James had to appear before Parliament to explain how much they knew.
In his testimony on July 19, Rupert Murdoch told lawmakers that this is “the most humble day of my life.” He added that he may have “lost sight” of the paper because it was “so small in the general frame of the company.”
The police investigation ultimately widened beyond the News of the World to News Corp.’s other U.K. titles including the Sun and the Times.
The U.K. lawmakers probing whether News Corp. covered up phone hacking are at least two months behind schedule with their report, as they debate how critical they can be of James Murdoch, two people with knowledge of the panel’s discussions said last week.
Calling on employees to “seize the opportunity to pull together and deliver a great new dawn for the Sun on Sunday,” Mockridge said the “commitment of News Corporation to invest in a new edition is the strongest possible message of support we could wish for.”
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