The problems faced by the Super Soaraway Currant Bun on Merseyside - precipitated by the swaggering arrogance of disgraced former editor Kelvin McFilth over the Hillsborough stadium disaster of 1989 and the paper’s subsequent refusal to back down over its smears of Liverpool FC fans - are well known. What is becoming increasingly well known since the New Year is that the paper may be about to lose support in another port city.
The Yorkshire city of Hull has won the right to be UK City Of Culture for 2017. Most of the metropolitan media elite might have to look on the map to find where it is - assuming, of course, that they know how to read a map - but what they do know how to do is to slag it off. After all, it’s Oop North, John Prescott was a local MP for many years, and the train to York and Edinburgh doesn’t go that way. So it’s a no-risk target, right?
Er, wrong, Murdoch goons. After the Sun ran a hatchet job on Hull titled “Scrapital Of Culture”, telling “LASHED-UP louts sparked New Year carnage in Hull hours before the city celebrated its new status as UK Capital of Culture … Civic chiefs lined up a night of fireworks to mark the prestigious honour. Instead sirens lit up the sky as cops took a call every 47 seconds”. the backlash against the paper began.
The Hull Daily Mail reported “Outraged dignitaries have defended Hull and its City of Culture 2017 crown following ‘completely unjust’ slurs in the national media … On Monday, The Sun provoked an angry backlash after branding our city ‘Scrapital of Culture’ and claiming there was ‘yob mayhem’ as the 2017 celebrations launched … Some 25,000 people watched the fireworks display - launched from barges in the Humber - and the 'Made in Hull' building illuminations around the city centre”.
Moreover, “Although officers reported a busy New Year's Eve, which the Mail reported, Sunday's City of Culture event passed peacefully with no arrests, injuries or incidents reported by police”. And then came the ominous warning “Hull City Council's leader, Councillor Steve Brady, likened The Sun's treatment of Hull to Liverpool, where people have never forgiven the tabloid for false claims that fans were responsible for the 1989 Hillsborough disaster that left 96 dead and 766 injured”.
Now, the Total Eclipse Of The S*n campaign, originally based on Merseyside, has picked up on John Prescott’s observation “People don't buy The Sun in Liverpool for its smears. I predict the people of Hull will do same for this hatchet job”, and visited the city’s Queen Victoria Square to show its support for a boycott of the paper - as in Liverpool.
This is gaining traction. And it is exactly what the Sun does not need, given the paper is losing money - a lot of money. The Guardian headline read, “The Sun losses exceed £60m as ad slump and hacking charges take toll … Total revenues fell from £456m to £446m after price increase failed to offset decline in print advertising and rising legal costs”.
Worse, “Its stablemate the Times also slipped into the red, reporting a pretax loss of £5m in the year to 3 July, down from a profit of £8.8m in 2015”. The Sun’s losses were less than the previous year’s £79 million, due to “a significant reduction in charges relating to legal claims and costs relating to phone hacking”. That’s the phone hacking they claim they weren’t doing. Except more cases keep coming forward.
And nothing yet about what might happen when Mazher Mahmood’s past potentially catches up with him. There has been “a steep decline in print advertising”, and although “Excluding one-off and exceptional charges, the Sun said it had made £16m in profit last year, almost half the £29m in 2015”, if the exceptional charges keep on coming, and keep on being greater than the annual profit, the paper will still make a loss.
With that background, the Murdoch goons can ill afford losing another city to boycotts - that have taken place because of its own bad behaviour. Yesterday Liverpool, today Hull, and tomorrow, who knows? Hitting Murdoch in his pocket is the only language he is likely to understand. And that is likely to happen a lot more in future.
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