Ahead of papal visit, Newman beatification spokesman weighs BBC programming

Jack Valero, spokesman for the Beatification of Cardinal Newman, at a Thursday seminar at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross
Jack Valero, spokesman for the Beatification of Cardinal Newman, at a Thursday seminar at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross


Giving mixed reviews to BBC programs airing before the papal visit, the spokesman for Cardinal Newman’s beatification has said that the broadcaster is showing several viewpoints. One upcoming program on Pope Benedict will show “very poor journalism,” while another will be better crafted.

The press officer for the beatification of Cardinal Newman, Jack Valero, spoke with CNA on Friday about the BBC's coverage of the Pope and next week's beatification ceremony in Birmingham, England. He did not agree that the BBC as a whole wants to “humiliate” the Pope, saying that only individual people do.

Referring to the media environment as an "open field," he said that while the British broadcaster is airing programs decidedly negative to the current pontificate in the lead-up to Pope Benedict's UK trip, it does so to show a variety of perspectives.

Of the programs they will dedicate to the Holy Father in the coming days, he said, "some will be good and some not so good. But, you know," he asserted, "if we put our message across in a good, convincing way than I think we will get more space and if we're not so good at communicating it than I think we will probably lose out."

Valero said that Fergal Keane's "What the Pope Knew" program on BBC One's Panorama, to be aired for the first time on Monday, will be “very poorly researched, with very poor journalism and that's a pity and it'll be pretty negative.

"But," he added, "there will be another one about the Pope himself which has been pretty well researched and starts from a negative and comes out pretty positive in the end."

This second program is a documentary called "Benedict - Trials of a Pope," created by reporter Mark Dowd to examine the life of the Pope from his Bavarian origins to the Holy See. It will be broadcast on Wednesday in the UK. The "Catholic Voices" group, which Valero helped to found, makes an appearance in the program.

Dowd, a former Dominican friar and an open homosexual, wrote an article for Friday's Catholic Herald in which he speaks of how, by studying Pope Benedict XVI's life to make the film, he came to respect him greatly.

Reflecting on the overall media situation at the moment, Valero told CNA, "I think that there's room for everybody and what I read in that is that you just have to be good at communicating and then you get a good entré and you can make your point."

Asked if there is a concerted effort by the BBC to damage the Pope's reputation, Valero answered that "individual people might want to humiliate the Pope" but "in general I wouldn't think that the BBC would want to do that."

Last week Scottish Cardinal Keith O'Brien slammed the BBC, citing "a consistent anti-Christian institutional bias" from the network which has come to a head over the last two decades. He said that the BBC is planning a "hatchet job" for coverage of the Pope's visit and that it seeks to "humiliate" him through pre-trip programming.

As for the BBC coverage in Birmingham for the Sept. 19 beatification, Valero said it will be “excellent." He noted that although the network's presenter Huw Edwards is not Catholic, he did a "really impressive" job of covering Pope John Paul II's funeral.

The live coverage will be "full of good stuff," Valero concluded, labeling the BBC as a "good channel" and pointing out that on it "every view is represented."

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