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Murdoch's UK tabloid records big losses

By Julian Shea in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2024-04-11 02:13

A customer looks at a copy of The Sun newspaper featuring a front page article about King Charles III's cancer diagnosis, in London, UK, on Feb 6. [Photo/Agencies]

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch's flagship British newspaper The Sun lost 66 million pounds ($83.8 million) last year and saw its online audience drop significantly as it continues to absorb the damaging impact of its involvement in a high-profile and costly phone-hacking scandal.

At the end of last year, Murdoch, now aged 93, announced he was stepping down as the chair of the News Corp media empire, which also includes British newspapers The Times and Sunday Times, and United States broadcasting outlet Fox News, which had to pay out hundreds of millions of dollars after a defamation suit relating to the 2020 US elections.

The Sun, for long regarded as one of the most influential media outlets in Britain, saw its online digital audience fall from 27.8 million users in 2022 to 23.8 million last year, and its combined digital and print reach go from 30.7 million users to 27.2 million.

This means that during the last five years, the cost of lawsuits, several of which are still ongoing, and dwindling readership means that The Sun's losses have reached 515 million pounds.

In addition to the newspaper's losses, News Corp's radio and television arm recorded losses of nearly 54 million pounds, mainly as a result of poor viewing figures for its news channel TalkTV, which was launched less than two years ago amid a blaze of publicity but which is soon to switch to being an online-only outlet.

There was some consolation, however, from the broadsheets The Times and Sunday Times, whose owner, Times Media Ltd, is part of the Murdoch empire and that reported profits of just under 61 million pounds, fuelled by a rise in subscribers paying for paywall articles.

Although the company has consistently denied that The Sun was involved in any form of illegal information-gathering, so far, News UK has settled more than 1,300 phone-hacking claims, and in 2011 one of its best-known brands, the News of the World, a fixture on the British newspaper landscape since 1843, was shut down completely over the affair.

In 2014, the paper's editor, Andy Coulson, who was previously communications director for the Conservative Party and Downing Street's director of communications under former prime minister David Cameron, served five months in prison for his part in a conspiracy to hack phones.

The British arm of Murdoch's company has previously said it hopes that it is approaching what it called the "tail end of litigation" relating to the phone-hacking scandal, but there is still one major case scheduled to come to trial in January next year.

Although another suit in which Prince Harry alleged that the publisher had a secret arrangement with senior members of the royal family has been thrown out, he has been allowed to bring a case against The Sun that will include allegations over the use of private investigators.

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