LONDON — Feminists are rejoicing at the disappearance of bare breasts from the British tabloid The Sun — though the newspaper is not saying whether the decision to ditch its "Page 3 girls" is permanent.
The Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid has featured topless models on its third page for almost 45 years, but since Friday they have been replaced by models wearing bras or bikinis.
The Sun has declined to comment on the change, but the Murdoch-owned Times newspaper reported Tuesday that the feature had been dropped from the paper's print edition. It said the Sun website would continue to feature topless models.
Murdoch bought the struggling Sun in 1969 and turned it into Britain's best-selling newspaper, a mix of patriotic flag-waving, celebrity scandal, cheeky humor — and, critics say, sexism.
The Sun's circulation has been declining for years as people switch to digital media, though it still sells about 2 million copies a day.
Page 3 was long seen as integral to the brand, but Murdoch has recently indicated that might be changing. The Sun's Irish edition stopped using topless models in 2013. Last year Murdoch said he found Page 3 "old-fashioned, but readers seem to disagree."
A protest campaign led by young women under the slogan "No More Page 3" has helped put pressure on Murdoch's News Corp.
Campaigner Yas Necati said it was "about time" the newspaper dropped a feature that "gives the message that men make the news for what they do, and women for what they look like."
The Conservative-led government's education minister, Nicky Morgan, said the move was "a long-overdue decision and marks a small but significant step towards improving media portrayal of women and girls."
But former Page 3 models spoke up in defense of topless tradition.
"This isn't a triumph for feminism," model Laura Lacole told the BBC. "This is a triumph for prudishness."