U.K. tabloid newspaper The Sun has brought back photographs of topless women to its Page Three, in an apparent rebuke to campaigners and media outlets who had believed the paper had decided to end the practice, which has long been criticized as being sexist.
The paper trailed Thursday's Page Three with an item published under the heading “We've had a mammary lapse.” In an apparent swipe at the paper's critics, the item read: “Further to the recent reports in all other media outlets, we would like to clarify that this is Page Three, and this is a picture of Nicole, 22, from Bournemouth.
“We would like to apologize on behalf of the print and broadcast journalists who have spent the last two days talking and writing about us.”
The image of the topless woman it published ran under the heading "Clarifications and corrections." The paper's supposed decision to end the practice of featuring topless women on its third page was widely reported in the British media, including by its sister paper, The Times, both of which are owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch.
The paper has continued the practice for 44 years, but numerous campaign groups have long railed against it as outmoded and sexist. Even Murdoch himself, in a tweet last year, referred to the practice as “old fashioned,” but added “readers seem to disagree.”
Media commentator Steve Hewlett, however, told the BBC's Newsnight program that he believed Page Three still did not have a future.
“[The Sun] always had a sense of mischief about it and, I might be wrong, but this smells to me very much like the Sun trying to say 'don't write us off yet, we still have a sense of mischief'. … Is Page Three on its way back full time? Personally, I very much doubt it."
The British campaign group No More Page Three responded to the paper's move on Twitter.
So it seems the fight might be back on. Thanks to @TheSunNewspaper for all the publicity they've given the campaign. See you tomorrow xxx
â€” NoMorePage3 (@NoMorePage3) January 21, 2015
The Sun was once widely regarded as having significant political influence in the U.K. In 1992, a front-page headline -- “It's The Sun Wot Won It” -- that was a reference to the Sun-supported Conservative Party's 1992 general election victory, has become part of British media lore.
However, its influence has waned significantly in recent years. The phone-hacking scandal that rocked the U.K. tabloid industry and forced the closure of the Sun's sister paper, "News of the World" in 2011, profoundly impacted public respect for tabloid papers, particularly those in the News UK stable. The Sun remains, however, the U.K.'s bestselling tabloid paper.