A Brighter Future For Murdoch With 'Sunday Sun'?

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The de facto replacement for The News of the World, The Sunday Sun, premieres its first issue Sunday. Host Rachel Martin talks with British journalist Ray Snoddy about what this means for Rupert Murdoch's media empire.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Rupert Murdoch turns 81 years old next month and he doesn't seem to be slowing down at all. Earlier today, the first issues of The Sun on Sunday hit U.K. newsstands. It's a de facto replacement for Murdoch's News of the World. That tabloid was shut down last July after revelations involving a phone hacking scandal led to a public outcry. The Sun on Sunday is basically just what it sounds like. Murdoch has taken The Sun, a popular six-day-a-week tabloid, and pushed it to a seventh day of production. We're joined now by Ray Snoddy. He hosts the BBC's popular media program, "Newswatch." Ray, welcome to the program.

RAY SNODDY: Hello.

MARTIN: So, I understand you grabbed yourself a copy of The Sun on Sunday. What does it look like?

SNODDY: Well, first of all, we've all been calling it The Sun on Sunday, which is a perfectly reasonable thing to call it, but it's actually just called The Sun, and then there's a little sunshine disc on Sunday. He emphasized that this is a seventh day edition of The Sun. What he's gone for is a very family-oriented publication, ostentatiously so, based heavily on heartwarming stories and 45 pages of sport, most of which is football. And it's the absolute opposite of the News of the World, which was largely based - traditionally at least - on vicars getting up to naughty things, show business scandal. There's actually none of that in this publication, at least for today. And as I'm sure most of your listeners will know, The Sun for 40 years or more has been the tourist where a naked lady on page three...

MARTIN: Yes, the page three girl.

SNODDY: Literally no clothes. Now, it's quite amusing. Page three, there is a model with no clothes on but she's covering her breasts with her hands. So, this is as respectable as Rupert Murdoch gets.

MARTIN: This is the toned-down version.

SNODDY: Yeah. You see, it's all carefully judged. However, once you get to page nine, there's a serious political military story. So, this is not all froth. But it looks like it's still looking for a bit of scandal but a little bit of tittle-tattle. But my suspicion is it'll be certainly continued to be toned down compared to what the late News of the World used to be.

MARTIN: So, there's a different media landscape. The Sun is now producing on a seventh day. But Mr. Murdoch isn't out of the woods yet I understand. There are more investigations.

SNODDY: No. He's absolutely not out of the woods. Certainly, there are more investigations to come on the paying money to police officers and people like that. I think the greatest damage to News Corporation could come not in the U.K. but in the States. Bribing public officials, I think, is an even more serious offense than it is here and goodness knows where this is all going to end up. I certainly don't.

MARTIN: Someone suggests, you know, if you're under this kind of fire you just lay low. You see these investigations through, but he doesn't do that. He expands production of The Sun to a seventh day. Is this characteristic of something he would do?

SNODDY: Fighting back against his enemies is absolutely characteristic of Rupert Murdoch. Actually, most of us expected him to launch The Sun on Sunday and a bit surprised that it's taken so long. I mean, 2.7 million copies of the News of the World were sold every Sunday. When that paper closed, almost half those newspaper purchases disappeared from the market. The real question now is will The Sun satisfy that appetite? And I reckon it probably will. I wouldn't be at all surprised that this paper settles down at about two million a week. Now, that's good money for Murdoch because he's essentially doing it on the back of an existing distribution in journalistic operation.

MARTIN: Ray Snoddy is the host of the popular BBC media program, "Newswatch." He joined us from London. Ray, thanks so much.

SNODDY: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News.

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