The Sunday Times

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The Sunday Times

The Sunday Times is a UK-based national newspaper published by News International. The Newspaper has a cover price of £2, the first UK newspaper to be priced so highly.[1] The current editor is John Witherow, and it is the sister paper of the daily edition The Times.



The Times along with its Sunday version The Sunday Times was purchased by Rupert Murdoch’s organisation News International in 1981. The move was controversial because press baron Murdoch already owned tabloid newspapers The Sun and its sister paper The News of The World.

Rupert Murdoch moved production of the newspaper away from its traditional home in Fleet Street to new premises in Wapping East London in 1986. The move was designed to modernise production practices, reduce costs and perhaps more importantly remove the influence of the powerful Fleet Street print unions. The move away from Fleet Street and the trade unions led to the Sacking by The Observer of all sub-editors who also worked on The Times. The paper was banned from conferences by The Labour Party and boycotted by the BBC for 5 years.

In the early 1990s Rupert Murdoch imposed a 10% cut in staff costs, a 50% price rise and a ban on promotion. [2]. The move to Wapping had, according to journalist Nick Davies, "Released a chain reaction of internal changeswhich have had a devastating effect on truth-telling journalism". [3]

Investigative Journalism at The Sunday Times

In 1967 editor of The Sunday Times, Harold Evans put together an investigative journalism team to be known as the Insight Team. They were specifically tasked with “long-term complex investigations”. Originally set up to investigate the story of Kim Philby the M16-KGB double agent who defected to Moscow [4]. The Insight team were responsible for a series of important investigations including:

  • Campaign for thalidomide compensation: 430 British children were left without limbs because their mothers had taken the sedative thalidomide during pregnancy. The children had already been waiting for 13-years for compensation when, in September 1972, The Sunday Times began running stories on the case. The government and the producers and distillers of thalidomide blocked these stories in the courts. The Sunday Times took the 6-year long fight to the European Court of Human Rights where it won the case. [5]
  • DC10 Plane Crash in Paris: The Sunday Times insight team proved that the flight which crashed killing 346 men, women and children, was suffering from a structural fault which was know to the manufacturers before the crash [6]

Investigative Journalism under Rupert Murdoch/Andrew Neil

The Rupert Murdoch take over of The Sunday Times and the abrasive manner of editor Andrew Neil led to an exodus of experienced reporters at the paper. The priorities of the newspaper were also very different, “the imperatives of a journalistic scoop had been allowed to take precedence over the need for proper tests to establish historical truth"[7]. These elements led to a series of flawed investigations at the paper that saw the Insight team mockingly referred to as the Hindsight team. Some of these investigations printed were:

  • Mordechai Vanunu: Israel’s secret nuclear weapon production program was revealed by The Sunday Times under the headline “Revealed: Secrets of Israel’s nuclear arsenal”. Although the story was important the way the investigation was handled led to criticism of Rupert Murdoch, and the then editor Andrew Neil, who both failed to protect the source of the story. Vanunu was kidnapped by the Israeli government and imprisoned for 18 years, 11 of those years in solitary confinement.[8]
  • The Hitler Diaries: The Sunday Times highly publicised the serialisation of “The Hitler Diaries”. The diaries turned out to be “peppered with contemporary phrases and written with a modern ink, the diaries turned out to be school notebooks aged with tea”. [9]


At the time of the take over Rupert Murdoch was threatened by MPs who wanted to refer the sale to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. Murdoch claimed he would not go through with the sale if this was to happen [11]. Murdoch managed to avoid the sale being referred to the commission by agreeing to increased powers for the Independent National Directors of the newspaper. The role of these directors would be to adjudicate in disputes between the editor and the company, make decisions on the appointment and dismissal of editorial staff and to be involved in decisions about the sale or transfer of the newspapers. The Independent National Directors were also given veto powers [12]

Harold Evans, who was the editor of The Sunday Times when Murodoch bought it and later the editor of The Times argued that the concessions made by Murdoch were worthless. Evans had fought for the increased powers of the Independent National Directors but in practice, he found they provided him with no effective protection. In his autobiography he wrote that none of the guarantees that Rupert Murdoch gave to safeguard editorial independence "are worth the paper they are written on—unless the proprietor shares the spirit of them. If he does, they are merely ornamental; if he does not, they are unworkable. Internal freedom cannot be acquired by external rules" [13]. Andrew Neil who was the editor of The Times from 1983 to 1994 agreed "It was a conceit invented ... to allow Mr Murdoch to take over these papers in the first place, and it was put in place for that reason. It was not really put in place to protect the independence of the editors". [14].

Sunday Times and Scottish Water

The Sunday Times predominately through, now ex Sunday Times journalist [15] John Penman published a plethora of commentaries advocating the privatisation of Scottish Water. He was, an unstinting supporter of the privatisation of Scottish Water. According to John Penman ‘he had argued for Scottish Water to be privatised for 3 years now’ [16] In 2006 he argued ‘how the Scottish business community should take the matter into their own hands and start to lobby the treasury’. He also argued how ‘a big juicy privatisation like Scottish Water would yield a decent chunk for the treasury’ [17]

In 2006 both the Times and Sunday Times reported extensively on the report The Political Economy of Devolution written by David Bell and Donald Mackay and published by the Scottish Think Tank, the Policy Institute. It was of little surprise the Sunday Times commented on this report so extensively given it was the Sunday Times who commissioned it [18].

This example illustrates the interlocks between academia, Think Tanks and the media and how they can, and do, corroborate and reinforce each others views in water policy debates in Scotland.

Media monopoly

MP's protesting against Murdoch's acquisition of The Times were concerned with the effect a media monopoly could have on democracy in the United Kingdom. This is according to a report by the Labour Government in 2001 because "A healthy democracy depends on a culture of dissent and argument, which would inevitably be diminished if there were only a limited number of providers of news" [19].

The main concern with Rupert Murdoch's media monopoly is that he can use it to manipulate public opinion and therefore put pressure on politicians who oppose his business interests. In October 2003 in the United States a study by the nonpartisan Program on International Policy Attitudes showed that 60% of U.S. citizens believed either that, clear evidence had been found of links between Iraq and Al Qaeda; W.M.D. had been found in Iraq; world public opinion favored the U.S. going to war with Iraq. 80% of the people who believed these falsehoods received their news primarily from Rupert Murdoch's Fox News. The clear bias of Fox News has not been displayed in The Times but Krugman argues that "a number of former Times employees have said that there was pressure to slant coverage — and everyone I’ve seen quoted defending Mr. Murdoch’s management is still on his payroll" [20].

The media interests of News International in the United Kingdom include:

In the United States Rupert Murdoch's Newscorp owns:




Tony Allen-Mills | Stuart Andrews | Sarah Baxter | Gillian Bowditch | Allan Brown | Anna Burnside | Richard Brooks, Arts Editor | David Connett | Helen Brooks | Robert Crawford | Brian Doogan | Camilla Long | Charlene Sweeney | Chris Gourlay | Sarah Baxter | Daniel Foggo | Daud Khattak, Peshawar | David Leppard | David Limond | Jack Grimston | Jan Battles | Jason Allardyce | Jeff Dawson | Jonathan Leake, Science and Environment Editor | Kathy Lette | Lorraine Davidson | Mangal Kapoor | Mark Harris | Matt Cooper | Matthew Campbell | Maurice Chittenden | Michael Gillard | Dipesh Gadher, Deputy News Editor


Brendan Montague | Fiona McCade | Stuart MacDonald | Gabrielle Monaghan | Gillian Harris | Iain Harrison | Isabel Oakeshott, Deputy Political Editor | Joan McAlpine | John Burns | John Follain | John Mooney | Jon Ungoed-Thomas | Jonathan Oliver, Political Editor | Julia Belgutay | Kathleen Nutt | Brenda Power | David Smith | Dominic Raab | Dominic Rushe | Michael Smith | Nicola Smith | Paul Anthony McDermott | Richard Wilson | Roger Waite | Roland White | Sarah McInerney | Sarah McInerney | Sian Griffiths | Steven Swinford | Holly Watt |

ABC and Readership Figures

The Sunday Times has an average daily net circulation of 1,155,589 according to the latest figures from ABC, these figures cover the period from the end of November 2008 to the end of December 2008. [22]

According to The National Readership Survey 88% of Sunday Times readers belong to socio-economic group ABC1, with the other 12% belonging to socio-economic group C2DE. 52% of Sunday Times readers are over 44 and 48% are aged between 15-44. The male-female divide amongst Times readers is 53% male and 47% female. This data was captured over one year from October 2007 to September 2008. [23]


  1. Tim Luckhurst, The £2 paper: Is 'The Sunday Times' worth it?, The Independent, 17-September-2009, Accessed 21-January-2009
  2. Simon Jenkins, Journalism:The History of The Times by Graham Stewart 08-January-2006, Accessed 19-January-2009
  3. Nick Davies, Flat Earth News (2008), London: Chatto & Windus
  4. Steven Erlanger, Kim Philby, Double Agent, Dies, New York Times, 12-May-1988, Accessed 21-January-2009
  5. Phillip Knightley, Suffer the Children, Accessed 21-January-2009
  6. Nick Davies, Flat Earth News, (2008),London: Chatto & Windus, Pg. 301, Ch 8.
  7. Nick Davies, Flat Earth News, (2008), London: Chatto & Windus p. 301, Ch 8.
  8. Nick Davies, Flat Earth News, (2008), London: Chatto & Windus Flat Earth News, p. 300, Ch. 8.
  9. Brian MacArthur, Hitler diaries scandal: 'We'd printed the scoop of the century, then it turned to dust', The Telegraph, 25-April-2008, Accessed 21-January-2009
  10. Stephen Brook, Insight cull 'saved Sunday Times £300,000', The Guardian, 20-April-2006, Accessed 22-January-2009
  11. BBC News, 1981: Murdoch bids to take over The Times, Accessed 19-January-2009
  12. House of Lords Select Comittee, Select Comittee on Communications, Chapter 5: The Case for Media Ownership Regulation, Accessed 19-January-2009
  13. Harold Evans, Good Times, Bad Times, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1983, pgs. 461-462]
  14. House of Lords Select Comittee, Select Committee on Communications, Chapter 5: The Case for Media Ownership Regulation, Accessed 19-January-2009
  15. Barfly, Scotland on Sunday, (19th April 2009)
  16. John Penman (26th October 2008) Sunday Times. CBI: privatise Scottish Water to boost business Accessed 5th January 2010
  17. John Penman, (Nov 19th 2006) Sunday Times Scottish Agenda: When it comes to R&D we play catch up Accessed 5th January 2010
  18. Jason Allardyce, The Sunday Times 'Holyrood 'squanders £ 4.5 billion' July 23, 2006)
  19. Department for Culture Media and Sport,Media Ownership Rules, November-2001, Accessed 19-January-2009
  20. Paul Krugman, The Murdoch Factor, 29-June-2007, Accessed 19-January-2009
  21. Richard Wray, Murdoch faces scrutiny over media influence, 25-May-2007, Accessed 19-January-2009
  22. Audit Bureau of Circulation, ABC Figures for The Times Nov-Dec 2008 Accessed 19-January-2009
  23. National Readership Survey Figures, NRS Figures October 2008-September 2009, Accessed 19-January-2009