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Will Rupert Murdoch's Topless Page 3 Girls Cover Up?

A fixture of British tabloids, toplessness is under fire
Will Rupert Murdoch's Topless Page 3 Girls Cover Up?
Photograph by Picture Arthur Edwards/News International/Getty Images

Page 3 girl Poppy and Thomas Jefferson make an unlikely couple. Yet the 21-year-old, who appeared bare-breasted in only a pair of lacy knickers in Britain’s No. 1 daily newspaper, the Sun, recently cited Jefferson in defense of press freedom, which certainly benefits a tabloid that features a topless woman every day on its third page. “Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe,” she counseled legislators from her Page 3 perch. The Sun could use the U.S. founding father’s help. A “No More Page 3” campaign to “Take the Bare Boobs out of the Sun” on Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook has gathered more than 87,000 signatures since September. Following a Twitter barrage against the Sun’s owner, Rupert Murdoch, the News Corp. chief even tweeted that he was considering replacing the 42-year-old fixture with shots of “glamorous fashionistas”—who likely would keep their clothes on.

As newspaper circulation continues its downward spiral, tabloids are tinkering to attract new readers. British and European titles added pinups decades ago to attract working-class males. Now they want women readers—and the advertisers that target them. Today women make up 45 percent of readership at the Sun, which has a daily circulation of about 2.3 million. “The column is old-fashioned and out-of-date,” says Alex DeGroote, a media analyst at Panmure Gordon. “If people want access to soft porn, they can get it anywhere.”