THE BLOG

Why the Days of Page 3 Are Numbered

16/08/2013 10:15 BST | Updated 14/10/2013 10:12 BST

In the wake of the decision by the Irish Sun to drop topless women from Page 3 of its papers, David Dinsmore, the editor of the UK edition of The Sun, is under renewed pressure to do the same. And given the wider debate of objectification of women in the media, and the images the youth of today can access, it seems the days are most certainly numbered for Page 3.

Ever since his appointment in June this year, Dinsmore has had to repeatedly address the growing demands for changes to be made to Page 3. Almost every single interview he has given has brought up the subject. Yet Dinsmore has continued to say that Page 3 will continue as it is a "good way of selling newspapers".

That the Editor of Britain's biggest selling newspaper sees women's naked bodies as a commodity for cheap titillation in a mass consumer market, acceptable to all ages and general access, will no doubt infuriate Page 3's many critics.

It's an alarming and out-of-date position to take but one of the feature's leading critics, the No More Page 3 campaign, does understand the quandary The Sun is in.

As Lucy-Ann Holmes, founder of the No More Page 3 campaign explains, "Page 3 is part of their brand and we do understand we are arguing to take away part of their brand identity. If you were asked to list the top three most recognisable elements to The Sun, everyone would have Page 3 in their list."

News International is an organisation that has built its reputation on shaping public opinion and always being one step ahead of their competitors in anticipating debate.

Yet over 110,000 people have now signed the petition to remove Page 3 from The Sun. And more generally, the debate around the portrayal of women in the media has left The Sun looking increasingly out of touch.

The Irish Sun hasn't been the only publication subject to the issue of covering up images of women in its publication. The Co-Operative supermarket will not be stocking the 'lads mag' Nuts from next month after the publication refused to cover their magazines with a modesty bag. The request from the supermarket chain was the result of demands from its customers who were increasingly concerned over the sexualised image of women on the magazine's covers and how these could be readily seen and accessed by young children.

David Cameron has also become involved in the debate, recently setting out proposals to block internet porn unless users specifically opt in. The proposal is only in its early stages but the Prime Minister's position seems to be in line with public opinion, where the ability of children to view this imagery has stimulated a debate on how this access can be managed.

The Prime Minister though has refused to criticise Page 3 specifically, stating "this is an area where we should leave it to consumers to decide." It seems an odd contradiction for the Prime Minister to have - as much as porn, Page 3 depicts women as sexualised objects.

The Sun certainly hasn't helped itself with its mixed messages either. Back in February, Rupert Murdoch, responding to criticism on Twitter that Page 3 was out of touch, tweeted "You maybe [sic] right, don't know but considering."

Yet as soon as the door was opened, it was slammed shut. In an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live Dinsmore declared, "Page 3 stays."

The signs though are ominous for Page 3.

Organized groups are following public opinion. The National Union of Teachers and the Girl Guides have both given public backing to the No More Page 3 campaign. The Girl Guides stated that "We would like the Sun to use its newspaper to promote positive role models to inspire girls and young women and help everyone to understand that women are never for sale."

It's clear that to many, Page 3 is now an anachronism. Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, added his voice to the campaign saying "The tide has turned against showing these patronising images of women."

The Sun cannot possibly continue for much longer against this groundswell of opinion. But given its stringent, seemingly intractable, position of defending Page 3, it seems that it has boxed itself in.

There are rumours that News International has created a task force to look at how Page 3 could be revamped and modernised. Yet how to do this without losing face?

Interestingly, a possible solution has been mooted by the No More Page 3 campaign itself. "The Sun is not informing its readers," Lucy-Ann Holmes argues. "If The Sun took the opportunity to say to its readers, look, if we stop using Page 3 girls, we will be contributing to making society kinder, safer and more respectful to our mothers, wives, sisters and daughters. The Sun readers might then go for that."