Murdoch launches new British weekly, 'Sun on Sunday'

Murdoch launches new British weekly, 'Sun on Sunday'

 Rupert Murdoch said today he will launch a Sunday version of his top-selling British tabloid The Sun ''very soon'', as he sought to boost morale among staff left angry and hurt by a wave of arrests.

The media tycoon said that despite a police investigation into claims that journalists paid police and other public officials for information, the tabloid would not suffer the same fate as its sister paper, the News of the World.

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

"We will build on The Sun's proud heritage by launching the Sun on Sunday very soon," the 80-year-old said in an email to staff at his British newspaper division, sent ahead of a visit to The Sun's newsroom in east London.

"Our duty is to expand one of the world's most widely read newspapers and reach even more people than ever before. Having a winning paper is the best answer to our critics," he said.

Murdoch paid tribute to the "superb work" of journalists at The Sun, the first British newspaper he bought in 1969, adding that the tabloid "is part of me".

The announcement confirms rumours circulating since last summer that Murdoch would seek to publish an alternative to the News of the World, which had a circulation of 2.7 million when it was closed down.

But the future of The Sun 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 founder and chairman of the US-based News Corporation, flew into Britain late yesterday to take personal charge of the crisis, amid signs that morale was collapsing among his British staff.

The journalists are furious at the role of News Corp. in the arrests, which were sparked by information passed to police by a committee set up by the company in response to the phone-hacking furore.

The Management and Standards Committee (MSC), based at the east London headquarters of Murdoch's News International newspaper division, has pored over thousands of emails and documents.

Murdoch said his company must obey the law, insisting: "Illegal activities simply cannot and will not be tolerated -- at any of our publications."

However, he also said those arrested would be able to return to work, and would be given legal support to fight the allegations against them.

"We are doing everything we can to assist those who were arrested -- all suspensions are hereby lifted until or whether charged and they are welcome to return to work... Everyone is innocent unless proven otherwise," he said.
His comments, and his promise to stay in London for the next few weeks to demonstrate his "unwavering support" for staff, are likely to be welcomed by journalists, some of whom have been seeking advice about suing the company.