Sun's Page Three 'returns' as paper takes swipe at rivals

media captionThe BBC's Joe Inwood: "The Sun is having a bit of fun with this"

The Sun has published a picture of a topless woman on Page Three and mocked media outlets that said the long-running feature had been dropped.

On Tuesday, the Sun's sister paper the Times said the tabloid would no longer feature Page Three girls - but one appears in the Sun's latest edition.

The supposed ending of Page Three was widely reported, despite the Sun neither confirming or denying it.

On the page, the Sun "apologises" on behalf of all those who ran the story.

'Further to reports'

The Sun announces Page Three's return with a trail on the front page that reads: "We've had a mammary lapse."

It heads the image of the woman, who is seen winking into the camera, "Clarifications and corrections".

A caption under the photograph reads: "Further to recent reports in all other media outlets, we would like to clarify that this is Page 3 and this is a picture of Nicole, 22, from Bournemouth.

"We would like to apologise on behalf of the print and broadcast journalists who have spent the last two days talking and writing about us."

image copyrightPA
image captionGlamour model Laura Lacole is among those who have posed for Page Three

Page Three has been a feature of the Sun for 44 years but has been criticised for being sexist and outdated.

The Sun does not always have Page Three pictures - they purposely do not appear in the paper's weekend editions and, in recent years, there are many weekdays where the paper does not feature a topless image on the page.

The absence of a Page Three girl on Monday and Tuesday coincided with the report in Tuesday's Times, which is a fellow News UK title, that the Sun had decided to quietly drop the feature.

The Times said it understood that News Corp executive chairman Rupert Murdoch had signed off the decision.

In its latest edition, the Times puts the record straight, saying its sister paper had "made a clean breast of it and admitted there's still some nudes to report".

'Sense of mischief'

The Sun's topless images have long drawn protests from campaigners, with an online petition against their use attracting more than 215,000 signatures so far.

Campaign group No More Page Three was founded in 2012 and has since gained support from a number of MPs and anti-sexism charities.

The Irish edition of the Sun stopped topless pictures two years ago.

Media commentator Steve Hewlett told the BBC's Newsnight programme that he believed Page Three still did not have a future.

He said: "It's [the Sun] always had a sense of mischief about it and, I might be wrong, but this smells to me very much like the Sun trying to say 'don't write us off yet, we still have a sense of mischief'.

"Is Page Three on its way back full time? Personally, I very much doubt it."

'Extremely disappointed'

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said editors were free to publish "what they like".

But Page Three was not "in keeping with the way in which women both want to be and should be represented", he added on LBC radio.

The Girlguiding's Advocate panel, which campaigns around issues that affect girls, said it was "extremely disappointed".

"A family newspaper should be ashamed of taking such a flippant approach to an issue that is so important to many young people," it said in a statement.

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