As a new year begins, old habits die hard: the reputation of Rupe’s downmarket troops at the Super Soaraway Currant Bun for falsehood and misinformation has been reinforced as today’s edition of the paper proclaims “THE SUN IS 50” on its front page, inviting readers to participate in a characteristically lame 50th anniversary quiz, one of whose answers is in turn false - and, indeed, borderline defamatory*. So no change there, then.
There is, sadly, one problem with the claim that the Sun turns 50 in 2019 - it doesn’t. The Murdoch mafiosi did not get where they are today without a little creative reinvention of reality, and this claim is no exception. The Sun was launched not in 1969, as the Murdoch version of history would have it, but in 1964. It passed its half-century five years ago.
The history is an interesting one: the Sun was, at first, a replacement for the Daily Herald, and published as a broadsheet. It was intended to replace the failing Herald with a new, more successful title, but reality soon intervened. The broadsheet Sun became another failing paper, its circulation falling from around 1.2 million in 1965 to 800,000 in 1969. By this time, it was losing around £2 million a year. Owners IPC decided to sell it.
Book publisher Robert Maxwell offered to buy, but admitted there would be redundancies. Rupert Murdoch, on the other hand, offered fewer redundancies, and ultimately IPC sold to him for a knock-down price of £800,000, which Rupe was allowed to pay in instalments. He had already bought the Screws, and so had the presses available to print a weekday paper. He had also lied through his teeth in order to close the deal.
Murdoch “assured IPC that he would publish a ‘straightforward, honest newspaper’ which would continue to support Labour”. He went back on that assurance when the Sun backed the Tories in the February 1974 General Election - the one time the paper did not back the winner. But he did have the occasional bout of honesty, telling an interviewer “If you think we're going to have any of that upmarket shit in our paper … you’re very much mistaken”.
It was the exception that proved the rule. The relaunched tabloid Sun’s first editorial claimed “Today's Sun is a new newspaper. It has a new shape, new writers, new ideas. But it inherits all that is best from the great traditions of its predecessors. The Sun cares. About the quality of life. About the kind of world we live in. And about people”. The Sun didn’t give a shit about anyone except its boss then. And it’s the same today.
What also gives the Murdoch goons little to celebrate is that the Sun’s circulation, and therefore its fearsome clout, has declined from around four million copies a day during the heyday of its most infamous editor, the deeply unpleasant Kelvin McFilth, to a mere 1.4 million at the end of last year. And the post-Hillsborough boycott of the paper on Merseyside has not only continued, but has recently intensified.
So not only is the Sun not 50 this year - except in Murdoch la-la land - there is nothing to celebrate. It’s a stain on journalism, a purveyor of dishonesty, a cesspit of illegal behaviour, a Mafia operation, and has irretrievably poisoned our way of life. Long may its circulation continue to decline, and its credibility wither.
* The claim that Jeremy Corbyn was a Czech agent during the Cold War. Another lie.
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