After 44 years it has been reported The Sun has quietly dropped its traditional page 3 featuring daily pictures of topless women.
However, it should be pointed out The Sun maintains that reports in The Guardian and even its own sister paper The Times are "speculation". The Sun is issuing no official statement but nor is it denying the reports which The Guardian claims have been confirmed by high level insiders:
Insiders said the decision has been taken to kill off the controversial feature quietly but that the feature would continue online.
"This comes from high up, from New York," said one senior executive in a reference to the paper’s owner Rupert Murdoch. (The Guardian, 20 January)
It would certainly make sense if The Sun has decided to drop the topless pictures. The paper has faced mounting criticism, most notably from the No More Page 3 campaign which has enlisted major organisations and public figures, as well as more than 215,000 supporters who have signed an online petition urging editor David Dinsmore to drop it.
While Sun readers may have had no problem with page 3, News UK and even some staff surely will have done. The mounting public criticism will have been heaping pressure on journalists, sales teams, advertisers and others it needs to maintain a relationship with, from politicians to celebrities. And in a society which has come a little way in terms of equality since the 1980s heyday of page 3, such an anachronism on its pages in 2015 will surely have made it increasingly difficult to credibly hold others to account. After all, this is a family newspaper which censored words like "arse" and "tits" yet proudly showed both on the very first page a reader of any age might turn to.
And when The Sun's ultimate decision-maker, Rupert Murdoch, publicly expressed his opinion that he likes women to be a little more dressed up, the die seemed cast. Although that was back in September last year it seems plausible the paper may have chosen to ride out a few additional months of criticism and wait for a new calendar year - a general election year no less, when The Sun should be looking to exert its influence, not further undermine it - to make it look like a decision it had made of its own volition.
What seems less plausible is that the paper would now reveal this all to be a red herring, to return tomorrow or the next day with a topless model on page 3. But then it seemed unthinkable the paper would ever rehire Kelvin Mackenzie, yet it recently did, so we should take nothing for granted.