Murdoch launches new UK weekly, `Sun on Sunday`

Murdoch flew into Britain late yesterday to take personal charge of the crisis, amid signs that morale was collapsing among his British staff.

Last Updated: Feb 17, 2012, 22:00 PM IST

London: Rupert Murdoch said on Friday he will
launch a Sunday version of his top-selling British tabloid The
Sun "very soon", as he sought to boost morale among staff left
angry and hurt by a wave of arrests.

The media tycoon said that despite a police investigation
into claims that journalists paid police and other public
officials for information, the tabloid would not suffer the
same fate as its sister paper, the News of the World.

Murdoch shut the News of the World, a Sunday tabloid, in
July over a phone-hacking scandal, which has spawned three
police probes and a government-ordered inquiry into the
standards and ethics of the British press.

"We will build on The Sun`s proud heritage by launching
the Sun on Sunday very soon," the 80-year-old said in an email
to staff at his British newspaper division, sent ahead of a
visit to The Sun`s newsroom in east London.

"Our duty is to expand one of the world`s most widely
read newspapers and reach even more people than ever before.
Having a winning paper is the best answer to our critics," he
said.

Murdoch paid tribute to the "superb work" of journalists
at The Sun, the first British newspaper he bought in 1969,
adding that the tabloid "is part of me".

The announcement confirms rumours circulating since last
summer that Murdoch would seek to publish an alternative to
the News of the World, which had a circulation of 2.7 million
when it was closed down.

But the future of The Sun was clouded by the arrests last
weekend of five of its senior journalists on allegations of
bribery, in addition to five former and current staff members
arrested on similar charges since November.

Murdoch, the founder and chairman of the US-based News
Corporation, flew into Britain late yesterday to take personal
charge of the crisis, amid signs that morale was collapsing
among his British staff.

The journalists are furious at the role of News Corp. in
the arrests, which were sparked by information passed to
police by a committee set up by the company in response to the
phone-hacking furore.

The Management and Standards Committee (MSC), based at
the east London headquarters of Murdoch`s News International
newspaper division, has pored over thousands of emails and
documents.

Murdoch said his company must obey the law, insisting:
"Illegal activities simply cannot and will not be tolerated --
at any of our publications."

However, he also said those arrested would be able to
return to work, and would be given legal support to fight the
allegations against them.

"We are doing everything we can to assist those who were
arrested -- all suspensions are hereby lifted until or whether
charged and they are welcome to return to work... Everyone is
innocent unless proven otherwise," he said.

His comments, and his promise to stay in London for the
next few weeks to demonstrate his "unwavering support" for
staff, are likely to be welcomed by journalists, some of whom
have been seeking advice about suing the company.

PTI