Select Committee on Communications Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1451 - 1459)


Ms Rebekah Wade

  Q1451  Chairman: Welcome and thank you very much for coming. We are reviewing the concentration of ownership and the impact that has on the media generally—broadcasting and newspapers. We are therefore interested in the trends in the media; we are interested in what this means for the provision of news to the public; and we are interested in how the public interest can be maintained and protected. It is a fairly wide brief, therefore. You have been Editor of The Sun since 2003 and before that you were Editor of the News of the World, I think.

  Ms Wade: That is right, yes.

  Q1452  Chairman: You have therefore been Editor of both of these very big-circulation newspapers. Although in the last 15 years your readership on The Sun has fallen—and we will come to that—you still have more readers than any other daily newspaper in Britain, over seven million. That is more than the Telegraph, The Times, the Guardian, the Financial Times and the Independent put together.

  Ms Wade: I think that it is actually eight on the NRS; just under eight.

  Q1453  Chairman: We will give you our latest National Readership Survey figures, and between seven and eight I think would be an accurate way to put it; but let us not argue about the odd million.

  Ms Wade: It is very important!

  Q1454  Chairman: To you, indeed. For correctness I will quote it, and I think I am right in saying that the latest figure we have, which is for 2006, shows 7.7 million. That is roughly where we are, but that is 2006 and not 2007. At any rate, you are still the biggest newspaper in terms of readership in the UK. Do you feel that, as Editor of The Sun, that gives you a lot of influence with the public?

  Ms Wade: The way it works at The Sun, and I think that The Sun is a very individual newspaper in this way, we have a very close relationship with our readers. That is to say, they are very vocal about their wants, their needs, if they like something or if they do not like something. At the heart of any decision we make at The Sun, it is in their best interests. If there is a gap between public policy and Sun readers' public opinion, that will always launch a campaign of some sort. As you know, I am particularly keen on revising the 1997 Sex Offenders Act—child protection—and, both at the News of the World and at The Sun, I have campaigned relentlessly to get those laws tighter, and we have had great success. We have had 16 new pieces of legislation. Yes, in some ways I see what you mean, that the reach of the readers means that we have influence; but it is more that that eight million—7.7 million—have influence on me.

  Q1455  Chairman: Let me put it another way. One of your predecessors, Kelvin MacKenzie, claimed that he won the 1992 general election for John Major. Do you think that The Sun swings elections in that way?

  Ms Wade: I think that the headline you are referring to is "It Was The Sun Wot Won It".

  Q1456  Chairman: It is.

  Ms Wade: That headline, it was Sun readers. I think the editorial that Kelvin ran that day—I cannot remember it verbatim—was basically "Sun readers last night voted for ... ". Again, I think that is the readers.

  Q1457  Chairman: You do not think that it is The Sun actually having an influence on the readers? It surely must be a two-way process.

  Ms Wade: I think that what we do at The Sun very well is condense public policy in easy-to-understand language. For example, as you know very well, you get a document like this which is the latest public policy—it can be the latest health policy or—

  Q1458  Baroness Thornton: But did you not have editorials which said "Vote Conservative", leading up to the 1992 election? Or "We advise you to vote Conservative"?

  Ms Wade: I cannot remember the editorials in 1992.

  Q1459  Baroness Thornton: Do you mean it was a surprise to you that your readers won this election for John Major, without anything you might have said to them?

  Ms Wade: I was not there at the time, though.

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