It is not, by any means, the end of Page 3. But there were signs yesterday that a mass petition to “keep the bare boobs out of The Sun” is starting to make a difference, nearly a year after the campaign was launched.
Apparently chastened by the No More Page 3 petition, signed by more than 100,000 people and backed by the teaching unions, MPs and Girlguiding UK, The Sun’s new editor, David Dinsmore, has asked a group of female executives to “reinvent” Page 3 to make it more relevant to the 21st century.
The changes will mean, says one former News International executive, “more celeb pictures, more up-market shoots and less nipples”. Jules Stenson, the ex-features editor of the News of the World, tweeted: “I am told The Sun is planning to ‘reinvent’ Page 3. No love for it among bosses, but it is a sales fix they cannot live without.”
In February, The Sun’s owner, Rupert Murdoch, responded to a Twitter user who told him Page 3 was “so last century” by writing: “You may be right, don’t know but considering. Perhaps halfway house with glamorous fashionistas.”
It is thought the changes are the idea of Mr Dinsmore, who took over as editor last month, rather than an instruction from Rupert Murdoch, although it is clear that the tweet from on high has been influential.
But would the inclusion of “upmarket shoots” be an improvement in the eyes of campaigners – particularly because it suggests that fashion models are more worthy of exposure than the women now on Page 3. Nevertheless, the changes are an acknowledgement that the huge backing for the petition has left the paper’s executives and new editor embarrassed.
The No More Page 3 petition was launched last August by the activist Lucy Holmes, who noticed the stark contrast between images of Jessica Ennis, who had just won an Olympic gold medal, and topless women on Page 3. She and other campaigners have protested outside Wapping every week for the past year. Their most recent protest was in front of The Sun’s Royal Baby Web Cam, a live feed from outside the hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge is due to give birth.
Lisa Clarke of No More Page 3 said yesterday the changes were proof that they were being listened to. She said Mr Dinsmore had been engaging with the group, which by last night had secured more than 108,000 signatures. She added: “We are cautious because it is not a victory until Page 3 has gone. There will not be massive celebrations, but it is obviously quite exciting that there is an acknowledgement of the hard work that has gone on.
“We have some fantastic ideas ... about putting female athletes, artists, people who represent women as we actually are, rather than just standing there in our pants for the entertainment of men. There is a huge moral shift in the zeitgeist and we are very happy to talk to these executives about making Page 3 a more female-positive space.”
Neither Mr Dinsmore nor anyone from The Sun responded to requests for comment yesterday.