LONDON — Rupert Murdoch announced on Friday that he will launch a new British weekend tabloid called The Sun on Sunday “very soon.”
It was a characteristically bold move for News Corp.’s chief executive, who is working to quell the mounting anger among Sun journalists upset about the handover of information about journalists and confidential sources to the police.
Murdoch described the Sun, the best-selling British daily newspaper that is currently only published six days a week, as “part of me.”
In a memo to his British newspaper staff, Murdoch said: “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.”
The surprise announcement came shortly after Murdoch arrived at the headquarters of his British newspaper titles on Friday.
Murdoch was forced to close the News of the World, the Sun’s sister title published on Sundays, last July after it became embroiled in a phone hacking scandal.
There have been rumors that Murdoch might seek to launch an alternative to the profitable News of the World tabloid, but no public confirmation until Friday. Since the News of the World shutdown, the Sun has been rocked by scandal following the arrests of 10 current and former staff members on the suspicion of bribing police officers. None has been charged.
In his memo, Murdoch defended News Corp.’s management and standards committee (MSC), an internal group that has been combing through 300 million e-mails searching for evidence of wrongdoing. Set up on the back of the phone hacking scandal, the MSC handed police information that triggered last week’s arrests of five senior Sun journalists, as well as a police officer, a member of the British Armed Forces, and a Ministry of Defence official
Murdoch said “illegal activities simply cannot and will not be tolerated,” but added that “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. News Corporation will cover their legal expenses. Everyone is innocent unless proven otherwise.”
Journalists at the Sun have expressed anger over the role the MSC has played in the arrests. In a much-discussed article titled “Witch-hunt has put us behind ex-Soviet states on press freedom,” Trevor Kavanagh, the Sun’s associate editor, wrote earlier in the week that journalists were being treated like an “organised crime gang.”
Murdoch, the New York-based media mogul, told his staff he would be staying in London “for the next several weeks to give you my unwavering support.”