First Sun on Sunday to be printed next weekend: News Int

LONDON, February 20, 2012 (AFP) - A new Sunday edition of Rupert Murdoch's top-selling British tabloid The Sun will hit the shelves this weekend, the paper said, seven months after the closure of its scandal-ridden sister title.

"Rupert Murdoch said during his visit on Friday that a new Sunday title would be published 'very soon' - and that is a week from today," said an internal memo sent to staff at the company on Sunday.

Murdoch visited News International's London offices on Friday to announce the launch of the Sunday edition and to promise demoralised staff he would stand by them despite the arrest of senior reporters over bribery claims.

The media tycoon said he would extend his stay in Britain "to oversee the launch" of the new publication.

The Sun's online version on Sunday confirmed next week's launch.

"Forty-three years ago when Rupert Murdoch first launched a new-look Sun, we promised that YOU, our readers, would be at the heart of all we do," said the paper.

"Now we are answering your clamour for a Sunday edition of the nation's favourite paper.

"You told us it could not come soon enough, and next weekend the historic new edition of The Sun will rise," it added.

Murdoch earlier stressed that a criminal investigation into claims that journalists paid police and other public officials for information would not cause The Sun to suffer the same fate as its sister paper, the News of the World.

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

Sun Editor Dominic Mohan called the launch of the new Sunday paper "a truly historic moment in newspaper publishing".

"The Sun's future can now be reshaped as a unique seven-day proposition in both print and digital," he added. "Our readers' reaction to the announcement of a seventh-day Sun has been huge and we won't let them down."

The paper's future 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 80-year-old founder and chairman of the US-based News Corp., flew into Britain late Thursday to take personal charge of the situation, amid signs that staff morale was collapsing.

Many employees are angry at the role of News Corp. in the arrests, which were based on information uncovered by the Management and Standards Committee set up by the company in response to the phone-hacking crisis.

Murdoch said his company must obey the law, insisting: "Illegal activities simply cannot and will not be tolerated -- at any of our publications."
Former News of the World political editor David Wooding told Sky News: "It caught me by surprise.

"Murdoch came round the editorial floor on Friday and said he was launching it very soon.

"We heard rumours of a date in April. This evening, astonishingly, we are told it's going to happen next week," he added.