Since 1979, no candidate for British Prime Minister has succeeded without the support of Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper The Sun.
Despite its ingrained sexism and misogynistic attitude towards women; despite its racist and xenophobic barrage of headlines; despite the illegal activities of a number of its senior staff; and despite lying repeatedly about the deaths of 96 football fans; The Sun remains the most widely read newspaper in the UK.
Alongside the monarchy, the newspaper continues to be the most popular obstacle to democracy in the country.
Following the legal decision on the Hillsborough verdict in April, the results of the EU referendum in June, and amidst its disgusting coverage of the refugee crisis, The Sun has returned to the spotlight for campaigners and activists across the UK.
And whether the goal is forcing editorial change, minimising profit, or decreasing circulation figures, there are five apparent avenues that are open to campaigners.
- Government/Council – this would be the top level approach, where law and policy makers are responsible for the activities promoted. In recent months it has taken the form of council boycotts with Derry, Strabane District, and Liverpool.
- Corporations who run ads – this is designed to target the corporations who provide money to The Sun through buying advertising space. Stop Funding Hate is one campaign that looks to persuade or encourage corporations to pull their advertising from newspapers that run “divisive hate campaigns”.
- Consumer boycotts – a commonly used tactic which urges consumers to simply stop buying the product.
- Petitions – either through sheer weight of numbers or attempting to appeal to the good nature of your target, petitions can and have produced change in The Sun in the past. No More Page 3 being the most successful.
- Stockists boycotts – avoiding both the owner and the consumer of the product, and instead targeting the people that sell it. In relation to The Sun, this is most commonly seen in Liverpool where hundreds of shops have chosen to stop selling the newspaper in recent months.
It is this fifth option that I feel gives the greatest chance for success. This is because 1) Laws can be changed and politicians are fickle, transient, and can be bought; 2) most corporations are only interested in returns on investments and few would be willing to abandon prime advertising space in the most widely read newspaper in the UK; 3) there are millions of consumers and targeting each individually would take too long; and 4) petitions rely too much on the good nature of the person/organisation you are attempting to change.
Of course it would not hurt the campaign if all of these tactics were to be used at once in order to achieve the desired outcome.
Recently, I discovered a campaign called Total Eclipse of The Sun. After doing some reading around it, I found out that it was incredibly similar to an idea I had been formulating in my own head for quite some time. Even down to the name “eclipse” – I had followed the exact same line of thought.
With the name (Eclipse) and the target (The Sun) covered, the first move was to find allies. You cannot wage a war alone, but if you look hard enough, you will always find comrades seeking to achieve similar goals.
In Brighton and Hove, these allies came in the form of the local Liverpool FC supporter’s club, The Brighton Kop, and the women from the No More Page 3 campaign – which was a movement born in Brighton.
I would imagine that these two groups can assist with communication, networking, campaigning, and general solidarity on any anti-Sun campaign locally. Alongside new recruits, and an active and passionate student movement, there should be more than enough woman/manpower to achieve our goals.
Every shop, be it cornerstore, off-license, or supermarket, is a target for this campaign. So long as they stock The Sun on their shelves, they should be in our cross-hairs.
Early victories are crucial to maintain morale and build momentum, so I would recommend going for the easiest targets first, the low-hanging fruit.
Some shop owners may be all too happy to oblige our requests, but some may take more persuasion. A casual chat at your local may be enough, but some will look at the economics of it all, and as business owners, fear that they may lose money.
Now, this is both capitalism’s major strength and major weakness: decisions are driven on profitability and returns on investments. When something is no longer profitable, businesses tend to stop doing it.
Newspapers are received by stores on a sale-or-return basis. This means that they only pay money and take profit from the newspapers sold in their store. Unsold papers are returned to the printing/distribution company at no extra cost.
If a moral argument is not enough to persuade the shop owner that they should stop stocking The Sun, an economic argument would have to be used. And this argument rests on the theory that not stocking The Sun would not cost the store any money in loss of earnings, and could actually result in increased business, and thus a higher profit.
To lend weight to this theory, we would provide evidence suggesting this to be true. This evidence comes in the form of our own market research as results from a questionnaire/survey of local newspaper consumers. The more respondents, the stronger the evidence. A questionnaire with only 20 respondents is a weak case for support, whereas one with 500+ is pretty strong.
The questionnaire itself is incredibly straightforward and can be hosted and shared online. I have used Google docs, and my questionnaire can be seen and answered here. It is structured as follows:
1a) Do you buy newspapers? Yes/No
(if No, the respondent is sent to Q2, if Yes, the respondent is sent to Q1b)
1b) Do you buy The Sun? Yes/No
(If No, the respondent is sent to Q2, if Yes, the respondent is sent to Q1c)
1c) If The Sun was unavailable in the store/outlet/newsagents would you:
a) Go to another store
b) Buy a different newspaper
c) Not buy a newspaper at all
(if a) or c) the respondent is sent to Q2, if b) the respondent is sent to 1d)
1d) If you would buy a different newspaper, which would you most likely buy? Tick all that apply
– list of all British newspapers is given here –
2) If a store/outlet/newsagents did not stock The Sun – i.e. The Sun was never sold there – would you:
a) Be more inclined/likely to shop there
b) Be less inclined/likely to shop there
c) Be unchanged. It makes no difference
Once 500+ people from Brighton and Hove have completed the questionnaire online, the data should provide the evidence needed to make an economic case for not stocking The Sun.
Armed with both the moral case and the economic case, the activists and campaigners can begin to approach local stores/outlets/newsagents. Again, I would recommend starting with the low-hanging fruit first.
To support the campaign, a Facebook page would be launched and merchandise (stickers/signs for shop windows, badges/pins for supporters) would be purchased. As in the earlier Eclipse example, the campaigners would photograph and list local stores that have become members and each store would receive a sticker to place in their window, proudly displaying the fact that they don’t stock The Sun.
Potential funding for the purchase of this merchandise could come from a variety of locations, but I had earmarked the local group Trust for Unpopular Causes or the Lush Charity Pot. The former I have been in touch with in the past, and the latter I have received money from. Of course, donations and crowdfunding could work just as well.
The Sun‘s circulation – like all print media – has been steadily declining for years and this campaign could go a long way to hastening that trend. As I mentioned previously, this is not the only route open to anti-Sun activists, and all of them could and should be tested. It is my belief though, that a campaign like the one I have described here, is likely to be most successful for lowering the local readership of the newspaper.
A misogynistic, racist, lying, gutter-press rag, headed by an Australian-born media mogul who does not care in the slightest for the lives of the working class people he claims to represent. The Sun is a dated and shameful publication that not only insults, outrages, and divides, but represents an obstacle to democracy in the country.
It is the UK’s most popular newspaper, owned by one of the most powerful men in the world, and it can be beaten.
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