The Vatican’s media must “up its game” for the digital age and move towards a more streamlined and joined-up operation, former BBC head Lord Patten said on Wednesday – but he hinted there are likely to be problems ahead on the road to reform. The Catholic peer and former chairman of the Conservative Party, is head of the Vatican Media Committee formed last year to recommend reforms.
“Given the speed with which news now travels and the immediate global dissemination of news and opinion, we felt that the Holy See needed to strengthen its media relations operations in order to respond rapidly to a constant news cycle and in different languages,” he told the audience at the World Communications Day lecture at St Patrick’s Church, Soho, in London. “What is needed now is more visual, multi-media content, especially if one wishes to reach younger people.”
The Vatican, he said, had been a pioneer in the media for more than a century – Vatican Radio, for example, was “cutting edge” when it opened in 1931. But in today’s world, Rome’s media budget was not being wisely spent: for example, around 85 per cent of the net cost of its communications outlay was on financing the newspaper and radio. “But how do most people these days get their information?” Lord Patten asked. “The television and social media services of the Vatican are very professionally run but also very under-resourced.”
But streamlining Vatican media to be more efficient in the digital age would not be without its problems, Lord Patten said, and he feared that however logical and reasonable the proposals, individuals who had long enjoyed effective autonomy would very likely find it hard to adapt to being accountable to others. But, he said, Pope Francis had shown himself to be an expert in how to communicate and this had to be the time to move forward.
A Vatican commission has been set up to consider the implementation of Lord Patten’s committee.
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