News of the World: how soon before Sun on Sunday rises?
Speculation is mounting that News International is planning to launch the Sun on Sunday as an alternative newspaper to replace the News of the World.
On July 5, as the scandal over phone hacking at News of the World, was gathering momentum, the domain name www.sunonsunday.co.uk was bought by an unknown company and registered.
Politicians and media commentators were quick to suggest that the true owner was News International, or an agent acting on its behalf, and it was part of its strategy to minimise the fallout from closing its most profitable newspaper: News of the World.
Former British deputy prime minister John Prescott, one of the alleged victims of phone hacking, said that it was “a management stunt”, adding "no doubt it will become the Sunday Sun".
His sentiments were echoed by Kenneth Clarke, the Justice Minister, who said: “All they're going to do is rebrand it".
Ben Bradshaw, the former Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, said: “The News of the World closure announcement is a smokescreen. News International were planning a 7 day operation anyway. It doesn't address alleged crimes under editorship of Brooks.”
Peter Wilby, former editor of the Independent on Sunday, said: "I'd wager, [not] a single Sunday will pass without a Murdoch tabloid appearing on the streets. After the NoW's final issue this weekend – which will contain no commercial advertising and which will, we are told, devote its circulation revenues solely to good causes – expect a Sun on Sunday to appear the following week."
A spokesman for the company would not comment on whether News International would continue to publish a tabloid title on a Sunday.
However, News International has already announced plans to move to seven-day working across its four titles – the Sun, News of the World, the Times and Sunday Times. At the end of last month Rebekah Brooks, the chief executive of News International, said that the company wanted to implement “editorial integration” across its daily and Sunday titles. She had said: "We will take a comprehensive look at where there is common ground across our titles and where we should remain unique.
“Where there is common ground we will find ways of implementing efficiencies to editorial systems and processes and, where appropriate, we will find ways of introducing seven day working."
It is understood that plans were being drawn up to first integrate the sports and business sections of the Times and Sunday Times.
The Sunday Sun is an existing newspaper in Newcastle, owned by News International's rival Trinity Mirror. Rupert Murdoch tried to buy the title in the 1970s. However, the Sun on Sunday, is a title that is available to use.
One of the possible victims of phone hacking Graham Foulkes, whose 22-year-old son David was one of the 52 people killed in 2005, said he was angry about the “cynical” decision to close the paper.
"When I first heard about the closure, my first thoughts were 'Oh, fantastic'," Mr Foulkes said.
"The only language (Rupert) Murdoch speaks is the dollar and this must have hit him hard.
"But as I've learned more about it, it looks more and more like a commercial decision he has made, a cynical decision."
Mark Borkowski, a publicity agent who represents many celebrities, said he was deeply sceptical of the idea of the News of the World being revived under the new name of "Sunday Sun" or "Sun on Sunday", without the accompanying resignation of Mrs Brooks and other executives.
He said: "It's a publicity stunt, pure and simple. And what everyone misses is that the people who started this – the advertisers, the British Legion, the readers – they don't want the brand killed off. They want the scalps of the executives. They want to see those responsible hung out to dry."