Vatican looks to reform its media operations, add multimedia

Vatican City - The Vatican is dragging its media machine into the 21st century, promising to promote social media and streamline its fragmented services with the help of a former BBC executive.

Lord Christopher Patten, former chairman of the BBC Trust, on Wednesday (May 27) outlined reform plans nearly a year after being appointed chief of the pope’s media committee.

Addressing journalists at St. Patrick’s church in central London, Patten highlighted “wasteful” duplications of media services at the Vatican and said modernization was imperative.

“It would be beyond bizarre to deny the Vatican the sort of modern media operation that others — including existing national church organizations — take for granted,” he said.

The Vatican spends almost 70 million euros, or $76 million, each year on its media services and employs 600 people. Despite being tasked with making budget cuts, Patten said the committee had decided job losses would “not be ethically appropriate.”

He instead foresaw the merging of the various communication tools, which include radio, television, a publishing house and underdeveloped online services.

Some 60 million euros invested annually in L’Osservatore Romano newspaper and Vatican Radio will be redirected to other areas, Patten said, such as the “very underresourced” television and social media services.

“What is needed now is more visual, multimedia content, especially if one wishes to reach younger people,” Patten said, explaining the Vatican’s need to take an interactive approach.

The Vatican should also be ready to “respond rapidly to a constant news cycle and in different languages.”

While Patten said the committee aimed to offer “better value for money,” he also recommended ways to boost the Vatican media budget by engaging in sponsorship deals and selling archival material.

In 2012, the Vatican hired former Fox News journalist Greg Burke as its senior communications adviser and tasked him with improving the Catholic Church’s image.