Select Committee on Communications Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1540 - 1559)


Ms Rebekah Wade

  Q1540  Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick: So the exact coverage is replicated?

  Ms Wade: Well, exact coverage would be wrong because obviously it has to be formatted differently. For example, you might read a 1,500-word piece from Tom Newton-Dunne in Afghanistan in the paper, but on-line, reading 1,500 words like that is not user-friendly and on a mobile it certainly is not, so the format may be different, but the actual editorial stance or content is similar.

  Q1541  Chairman: How many permanent correspondents overseas do you have?

  Ms Wade: We do not have overseas offices—

  Q1542  Chairman: At all?

  Ms Wade:—apart from in America. The reason for that is pretty obvious really, that our concentration is on domestic news, but I have an editorial budget, as I said, which enables me to send my reporters all around the world. It is not unusual to have Tom Newton-Dunne in Afghanistan, George Pascoe-Watson with the Prime Minister in China, I have got my foreign reporter, Nick Parker, who can be in Sierra Leone, and I have got Oliver Harvey, our chief feature writer, who has—

  Q1543  Chairman: So you do it on a firefighter basis?

  Ms Wade: Well, he is regularly in Africa. On one of our campaigns, and in fact The Sun won an award for our African coverage, he is permanently there, so do not be swayed by the fact that we do not have bureaux; they travel all the time.

  Q1544  Lord Corbett of Castle Vale: Ms Wade, do you have a policy for handling stories and, let us say, difficult stories that relate to other News Corporation interests?

  Ms Wade: No.

  Q1545  Lord Corbett of Castle Vale: You just treat them on the merits, as you would any other?

  Ms Wade: Absolutely.

  Q1546  Lord Corbett of Castle Vale: Have you ever felt that you have been pressured to deal with a story about another News Corporation company in a certain way?

  Ms Wade: No, absolutely not, never. In fact Sky News can be one of our biggest critics, although I always forget the BBC, but no, absolutely not. It just does not happen.

  Q1547  Chairman: What were you going to say about Sky News?

  Ms Wade: It is often very critical of The Sun.

  Q1548  Lord Corbett of Castle Vale: It certainly enjoyed the help of The Sun when it started, Sky.

  Ms Wade: I was not the Editor.

  Q1549  Lord Corbett of Castle Vale: Well, it works both ways, does it not? You can do stuff you would not normally do.

  Ms Wade: Well, we do not.

  Q1550  Lord Maxton: How popular is the on-line? You have quite rightly said that Sky News may report you, but I went on to your website last night to have a look at what—

  Ms Wade: Good. You will be one of our 300 unique users then yesterday.

  Q1551  Lord Maxton: Well, I have to say, it is probably about the only occasion in my life I have actually read The Sun!

  Ms Wade: So you are very qualified to be on this Committee then!

  Q1552  Lord Maxton: But can I just make the point that there was video on that and there were, I think, six video items on your website and three of them were actually news items from Sky News, particularly the Diana inquest, for instance, was straight from Sky News' coverage. What is your relationship in that? Are you paying for that link? Would you consider using BBC News rather than Sky News in that situation?

  Ms Wade: What you will have seen there is you will have seen three from Sky—

  Q1553  Lord Maxton: And three from your own people?

  Ms Wade:—and three from our own people and you will also have seen news from Reuters. We find that video is becoming more and more popular on The Sun website and we are a newspaper, not a broadcaster, yet we want to provide that video for our readers. Now, we are getting quite good at videoing our own content now, so, if we do an interview, say, with the Prime Minister, the traditional notebook and pen went to being a tape-recorder and now is notebook, pen, video recorder, camera, you know, we are all sort of getting that multimedia, so the relationship with Sky is the same as it is with Reuters, that we are looking at everyone for video content.

  Q1554  Lord Maxton: So you pay Sky for that link and those news stories at full commercial price?

  Ms Wade: I can get you the details of the deal. It is not simple. It is the same with Reuters, it does not matter that it is Sky, but I can send that in as a submission later on.

  Q1555  Lord King of Bridgwater: Last year, I think, was a record year for the number of complaints to the Press Complaints Commission, I am not saying for The Sun particularly, but for newspapers in general. You obviously in your competition for stories, public interest stories, are often seen as quite intrusive in people's lives. What is The Sun's policy on privacy?

  Ms Wade: Obviously The Sun's policy on privacy is in line with the PCC Code of Conduct, but it is worth mentioning, I think, that, as I said to you before, I am expected to produce a paper to the very highest standards, not just adhering to every letter of the Code, but also in making responsible judgments on every story that comes our way. In the eight years that I have been the Editor, I have only had three complaints upheld and in fact in the last five years of editing The Sun, we have had two. That is an incredibly good record, if you compare it to the rest of Fleet Street, so I think not only am I telling you that we really do adhere to the highest standards, but there is also Press Complaints Commission evidence to support that.

  Q1556  Lord King of Bridgwater: Can I ask you this then: how many apologies have you issued in your time as Editor?

  Ms Wade: I could get that because there is an absolute record, but I cannot remember the number. Obviously, if somebody asks for an apology or a correction, then we will do everything we can to establish if it is right, if they need a correction and, if they do, we give it.

  Q1557  Lord King of Bridgwater: With equal prominence?

  Ms Wade: With equal prominence. Yes, we have quite strict rules about where apologies go and we always talk to the complainant about the position in the paper and the position is always to their satisfaction. That actually is one of the most important things, the prominence and the position.

  Q1558  Lord King of Bridgwater: I think I may be alone in this, but I am staggered at the figure you have given for what you think are the amount of times when you have had a complaint upheld against you which raises one question—

  Ms Wade: Can I ask why you are staggered?

  Q1559  Lord King of Bridgwater: Well, I would have thought the public perception was that there would have been more occasions on which there would have been concern expressed.

  Ms Wade: Well, perhaps if you checked with the PCC, you would be less staggered about it because that is the figure, three.

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