Britain's Patten to lead Vatican communications re-vamp drive

VATICAN CITY Wed Jul 9, 2014 6:10am EDT

BBC Trust Chairman Chris Patten attends a press conference at New Broadcasting House in London December 19, 2012. REUTERS/Chris Radburn/POOL

BBC Trust Chairman Chris Patten attends a press conference at New Broadcasting House in London December 19, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Chris Radburn/POOL

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VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Former Hong Kong Governor Chris Patten will head a committee to advise Pope Francis on how to re-vamp and modernize the Holy See's media strategy, the Vatican said on Wednesday.

Patten, 70, one of Britain's most experienced politicians, will be president of an 11-member committee made up of six experts from around the world and five Vatican officials.

It will make proposals within the next year to bring the Vatican more up to date with communications trends, improve coordination among departments and cut costs, a statement said.

The Vatican, which already has a number of internet sites and Twitter accounts, including that of Pope Francis, will use more digital media to reach a wider, younger audience, it said.

Patten, a former Conservative Party chairman, served as the last British governor of Hong Kong as well as external affairs commissioner for the European Union.

A Roman Catholic, he also worked on behalf of the British government to manage Pope Benedict's visit to Britain in 2010.

He most recently was head of the organization that oversaw the BBC, enduring three turbulent years as Britain's public broadcaster battled a series of scandals. He stood down in May after heart surgery, saying he needed to reduce the range of roles he undertook.

The other non-Vatican members of the committee come from the United States, Germany, France, Spain, and Singapore

Last year, the Vatican hired international consultancy McKinsey to prepare a report on how to improve Vatican communications. The new committee will review that report, the Vatican said.

The Vatican has six separate communications departments - a press office, television, radio, newspaper, an internet office and a communications council, which exercises an academic and policy-making role.

They have been known not to communicate or cooperate with each other and sometimes have appeared to be in competition. In the past, one department has published important information without telling the others.

The Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, is 150 years old, and its editor is trying to modernize it to help shed its drab and staid image.

Vatican Radio, which broadcasts in 40 languages, takes up a big chunk of the Vatican's budget and some officials have questioned whether such a big structure is necessary in the Internet age.

Some of the languages the radio uses are holdovers from the period when it, like Radio Free Europe, was one of the few sources of independent information in the communist East bloc.

(Additional reporting by Kate Holton in London, Editing by Angus MacSwan)


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