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This ‘No More Page 3’ petition is highly unlikely to do anything but the sentiment is fab

In the past few days some momentum (well I say some momentum – a few people have blogged on it but actually at the point of writing only 8,772 have signed the petition despite featuring in national newspapers) but lets ignore that and pretend the momentum is gathering.

I have strong feelings on Page 3. I don’t like it but I don’t feel that it should be banned. This petition though isn’t about banning it. It is about getting the editor of The Sun to decide that it is time to move on and ditch this aspect of his newspaper. Sounds good in practice but one of the posts talking about it entitled ‘For what it’s worth‘ sums up exactly why the petition has very little chance of succeeding:

The campaign isn’t trying to censor The Sun, either; no one is seeking to “ban” Page 3, but merely wishes to implore Dominic Mohan, the editor of the paper, to do away with it. It is not good enough to merely cease to buy the paper, or skip the page; firstly, because many of the supporters of the campaign probably do not read the paper in the first place, but also because ignoring a problem does not fix it.

So as the author says herself the petition isn’t exactly aimed at the people who buy the newspaper so why would the editor of a national newspaper give a damn what people who don’t buy his newspaper think? I mean seriously? If I was the editor of a newspaper and was told that a lot of people who didn’t buy the newspaper anyway were pissed off with a part of my publication then would I give a damn? Of course I wouldn’t and more importantly nor would anyone else.

The problem with this petition (and all of the Page debates) is that The Sun will not stop until they are either banned from doing it or it is not worth it financially. That is it. That is the list. Now I have no doubt that News International do extensive research on this issue and I fully expect they know that if they ditched it but it wasn’t banned then one of their tabloid rivals would straight away go with it and pick-up a significant percentage of their circulation.

If they knew (or believed) that by ditching the Page 3 girl they would increase their circulation as all the people who don’t buy The Sun would suddenly buy it then they would. However they know that the people who don’t buy the newspaper don’t do so primarily because of the tits on show. They lost half a million off their circulation in the past year but that wasn’t because of tits it was because of phone hacking. They’ll also very closely monitor the circulation figures after the Hillsborough report finding what it did. So the newspaper may well see a drop in sales again over the next few months.

Page 3 to The Sun is nothing to do with their thoughts of sexual objectification. It is all about money (like most businesses) and financially it obviously is worth it to them otherwise they wouldn’t do it. The people who don’t like it don’t buy it anyway so why would they care what these people think? Isn’t that a very bizarre way to run a business? Would you run a business where the people who make you money like what you do but those who don’t make you money are complaining and you listen to the latter and not the former?

Look if you want to sign the petition then go for it and good luck to you. I would like to see it succeed as I don’t like Page 3. The link is here but in the real world the likelihood of this petition making waves in the boardroom of News International or even at the editorial level at The Sun is extremely extremely low. You can debate whether that is right or wrong until your heart is content but that is a fact.

The Sun is not going to change its philosophy on Page 3 out of the goodness of their heart. They just won’t. Even if they hit the million signatures that they are aiming for, if they see no drop in their circulation figures then they won’t do anything.

Sometimes we see the world from our own point of view and not from the point of view of others. Page 3 sells newspapers. I don’t like it. You probably don’t like it but it is a fact and until it doesn’t then why would they stop? The Sun as we all know isn’t the bastion of moral fortitude and it doesn’t pretend to be. It is a newspaper that serves as the news of the lowest common denominator. I don’t think that is an unfair statement and the people that buy it are not those who care about tits on Page 3.

If we want to change the perceptions of women and get Page 3 consigned to the history books then this isn’t the way forward. Attitudes need to change within the people that buy the newspaper and not the other way around. A newspaper is not going to take the lead when money is at stake. So it needs other avenues to succeed. What they are I don’t know but I sure as hell know that this won’t change a thing.

Sexism is still prevalent in our society and whilst it is slowly changing (it is slowly changing) there are still many problems. Would killing Page 3 make any difference? Maybe but killing Page 3 is unlikely when there is a willing audience both to buy it and star in it. Change has to happen from the bottom up and a media outlet with shareholders to answer to will not lead the way unless they believe it is financially worthwhile. Like it or not that is the bottom line and that is where the buck will stop.

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5 Comments

  1. thismom thismom

    “I have strong feelings on Page 3. I don’t like it but I don’t feel that it should be banned.”

    So actually you have very watery feelings about it. You also use the word “banned” which is not what the petition is asking for. (Granted, you do say this in the next sentence)

    If you wrote “I have strong feelings on Page 3. I don’t like it but I don’t feel that it should be taken out of the newspaper” What would that say about you?

    My daughter’s father doesn’t like that she is forced to grow up in a world where this kind of exploitation is ignored and that the Big Boys are pandered to. So he signed the petition.He didn’t give a wishy washy…oh but er…but it’s not right but we can’t do anything about it so er…

    He signed. And I respect him for that. And his daughter does too. And so does his mother.

    There is a place for sexual images and it’s the top shelf, not a “family newspaper” that gets left open on the bus, in cafes and in the workplace. Your post is jaded and self limiting. You could have written about how daring this David against Goliath move is. You could be cheering them on. Instead you’ve already sunk the ship in your own mind.

  2. Well, you sort of do imply it, when you suggest that significant amounts of readers will be lost should they do away with it. I am guessing from the way you seem so offended by this that it was not your intention, but that is the impression that I got.

    Yes, but there is an argument that as they created the demand, and are continuing to shape it, then they can change the demand, too. At this stage, I am not totally convinced that the reason that The Sun keeps Page 3 is because they think it earns them more money than it would if they removed it; sometimes I think that they keep it because it is just as easy to. They are undoubtedly successful with Page 3, so why bother doing anything about it? That is, for me, the point that petitions and campaigns like this come in. At the very least, I think that there are other factors involved here, and not just money.

    Well, I’m guessing we’re going to have to agree to disagree on this one, but I stand by what I said: The Sun have moral responsibilities. Businesses have moral responsibilities. I agree that it has nothing to do with gender, but if it is the case that they believe that Page 3 sells more money, why do they not think that Kate’s photos would not go down with their readership? I tend to disagree with people who feel the public would not “forgive” them for it; do the public really care that much? Not in my mind.

    I agree with you. But I see no harm in petitioning the editor of the newspaper that is perpetrating the objectification and sexism – if nothing else, if he is swayed by it, he will be the one to take it to the board. Judging from the coverage leading up to Rebekah Brooks becoming editor, it would seem that the editor DOES have some say, considering she was widely expected to drop it (granted the fact that she didn’t may have been because of higher interference, I genuinely do not know). So I do not think that it is a non-starter. But time will tell.

    • neilmonnery neilmonnery

      You don’t do anything controversial in business unless you get either a) publicity or b) money. Page 3 is controversial so either The Sun get publicity from it or they get money. Considering the only mainstream publicity they get from it is negative you have to reasonably assume that they get money from it. Hence the implication that if they stopped doing it they would lose sales. Any other reason for running Page 3 for so long do not make any business sense.

      Of course ol’ Rupert might be a sexist and does it just to rile up women but I don’t see topless ladies in The Times or the New York Times or any other publication that he owns. Also as you pointed out the Daily Star does have topless women as well. Do they do it because they are sexist or because it brings in sales?

      We both agree (I think) that newspapers don’t do it just for the lols as the kids would say but more because it appeals to the type of consumer they are aiming their product at. So the best way forward to to get these people to change their viewpoint on topless women in newspapers because getting the newspapers to change is whilst in theory the easier road – it is the hardest because in business money talks over morals as depressing as that may be.

      The Kate/Harry photos thing is very straightforward. Do you know who the public love more than anyone else? Kate Middleton. Then it’s probably the Queen, Simon Cowell, Boris Johnson et al. The media saw what happened with Diana and they know that any hounding of what the public view as her successor would not go down well. It wouldn’t. We both know this. A naked photo of someone who is happy to be photographed is different from someone who isn’t. The newspaper know this and so do the public. Look at the Irish Daily Star as the owner wants to shut down the newspaper because they published the photos. He wants to shut the whole newspaper down as he knows it’s played out extremely badly.

      There is no harm obviously at this petition. However it’s success is extremely unlikely. I have said I don’t like Page 3 and if it disappeared then I’d be perfectly happy with that. However I just can’t see this petition making any waves that would cause NI to change course. The Sun (and Daily Star) should lead the way but they won’t if it costs them money. I know you aren’t sure that it would but again I refer you back to the opening paragraph in this comment. You don’t do anything controversial as a business unless you get publicity or money and topless women don’t bring in much (if any) positive publicity.

      I do hope you guys succeed but I’d personally look at a change of tact. A big demonstration at the AGM would get so much more mainstream exposure. You need a media person who really hits it hard getting on the news channels and daytime TV and you need to keep up the momentum. A few blog posts here is good but if the petition stalls over the next few days and weeks the story and interest dies very quickly. This needs TV exposure and if Lucy is willing to do it then she needs to really go at it hard as rightly or wrongly TV exposure is where the masses will find out about it.

  3. After getting the pingback from your link to my post, I was very interested to read your blog. However, I have to disagree with you. For a start, while the petition obviously has support from those who do not read the paper, it hopes to get support from people who do as well. It is quite insulting to a lot of people to suggest that the only reason they buy their paper is for Page 3. It doesn’t really make sense that they would; there are infinite numbers of images of topless women, and lots more besides, easily accessible and free on the Internet!

    For this reason, there is a belief that stopping Page 3 would not actually be that detrimental to sales. There will be people reading the paper that dislike Page 3, and there will be people reading the paper that are indifferent to Page 3; at the same time, there will be people who don’t currently read The Sun, but who might if Page 3 wasn’t there.

    Besides, The Sun is not just responding to demand. It created the demand, and is reinforcing it. There are already rival tabloids with a Page 3 feature, and actually comparatively more racy content; surely, if tits were all The Sun had going for it, those papers would have taken readership by now. I do not think there would be a significant amount of readership lost. A lot of men I know are frankly offended that there is a belief that they buy their news based on breasts in the first place.

    Also, The Sun do have moral responsibilities. For example, they have refrained from publishing the topless photographs of Kate Middleton. Why did they do this, when they clearly were not afraid of the consequences of publishing the photographs of Prince Harry?

    Thank you.

    • neilmonnery neilmonnery

      Did I ever say or imply that people only bought the newspaper for Page 3? No. No I did not. I did say that those who bought the paper were clearly not put off by such a thing, which is fairly obvious but saying that people only buy the newspaper for Page 3 I never said such a thing nor even implied.

      It is very clear that the people in charge believe that removing Page 3 would lead to a drop in sales otherwise why would they do it? The Sun are in the business to make money and they will put out a product that they believe will make them the most money. The Sun (and NI) are a rather large business and do things like customer research and they are satisfied that Page 3 is worth more to them with a picture of a topless woman on it. Rightly or wrongly that is clear because they keep doing it.

      You might not believe it but they do and they are the ones that have done the extensive research. Would some people buy The Sun if they didn’t have boobs on Page 3? Sure. Would more people buy The Sun than before? Maybe but again they are in the money making business and they believe that they get more sales this way.

      The Sun do not have moral responsibilities. They are a business. They published the Harry photos because they thought it would go down well with their readership. They haven’t posted the Kate pictures because they do not believe that it would. It has nothing to do with gender but more to do with what is right for them from a financial point of view.

      The Sun – like all media outlets with shareholders – will do what is best for both the short, medium and long term futures of their company in the eyes of the owners. They believe Page 3 is good for them. Until their readership starts telling them that they don’t like it and in turn stop buying the newspaper because of said issue then they won’t change. A change has to come from society and from their readership. Change will not come from the top down. To think otherwise is idealistic but not realistic.

      The bosses at The Sun have to answer to two sets of people – their bosses and the shareholders of the company. Murdoch clearly has no issues with it so that’s not going to change Dominic Mohan’s mind unless the shareholders make a big statement on this. It is far more likely to succeed if the campaign was targeted at the shareholders of NI and if you campaigned at the AGM etc… – a petition aimed at a guy who won’t even make that decision (as Page 3 is a board level decision) seems like a non starter – no?

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