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Rupert Murdoch to launch 'Sun on Sunday' newspaper in April

By Ian Burrell

Pictures of the first wedding anniversary celebrations of William and Kate and action from the likely Premier League title decider between Manchester City and Manchester United are likely to feature in the launch edition of a Sunday version of The Sun newspaper.

News International seems set on 29 April as the day when it will unveil the much-anticipated new title, less than 10 months after the closure of the News of the World in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal.

The publisher has been anxious to return to the Sunday market but feared a critical backlash after its senior figures, including News Corporation's chairman and chief executive, Rupert Murdoch, and his son, James, appeared before MPs a conducting inquiries into hacking. But as the replacement paper, likely to be called The Sun on Sunday, has been delayed, News International's £600m printing plant in Hertfordshire has been shorn of a print run of nearly three million copies a week.

Since the closure of the News of the World, a cluster of senior journalists from the defunct paper have been moved to The Sun where they are regarded as the core staff for a future Sunday edition, expected to be edited by Victoria Newton, the former deputy editor of the NOTW.

A launch on 29 April offers numerous commercial advantages to a paper that is likely to be heavily marketed on its sports coverage. After the Manchester derby, likely to be the most important game of the season and heavily-promoted by its media ally BSkyB, The Sun on Sunday could look forward to a summer of sport including the Euro 2012 football championships and the London Olympics. The new series of Britain's Got Talent, which begins in April, offers a good platform for pre-launch advertising on ITV.

Although News International – which would not comment on the speculation – is suffering damage to its corporate reputation on an almost daily basis as Lord Justice Leveson hears evidence in his inquiry into media ethics, the hearings are due to end on 19 April.

The Sun's advertising department depends heavily on the retail sector, which is normally reluctant to advertise in the Sunday press except on bank holidays. Spring brings an upturn in advertising spend and the May bank holiday would give the new paper a lucrative second week. Paul Thomas, a media consultant, said: "If I was going to do it, spring is when I would do it."

Britain drops to 28th in 'press freedom index'

Press freedom has greatly diminished this year because of the impact of "archaic" libel laws, the policing of the London riots and the Leveson inquiry, a report found yesterday.

The Reporters Without Borders organisation downgraded the UK to 28th place in its annual Press Freedom Index. It attacked the Leveson hearings for "discussing regulations that should not even be considered", expressed concern about police access to personal data after the riots, and criticised "surreal" libel legislation.

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