The gentlemanly Sandro Magister has some pointed observations about the television coverage of papal Masses.
I must say I share his well-expressed views.
Let’s have a look at what he writes on his worthy blog, Settimo cielo, in my translation and with my emphases and comments.
Papal Masses on TV: An Entirely Failed Production
With the procession and the Mass for Palm Sunday, on 16 March in St. Peter’s Square, Benedict XVI initiated the rites of Holy Week.
As we have now seen for some months already, at the center of the altar there were a Cross and a 7th lighted candle. The Pope celebrated the Eucharist turned to the Cross. And the faithful, whether they knew it or not, did the same, thus reviving an element of tradition that in the last few decades had been lost.
As always, the celebration was broadcast live on television. The direction of the program, however, showed its usual lack of sensibility for they exigencies of the rite.
Elementary logic would have it that a television broadcast of a papal celebration would make visible to the public the actual celebration. Even on the large screens in St. Peter’s Square should serve for this purpose: to show to the faithful in a closer format what was going on at the distant altar.
Instead, no. There was an out of proportion quantity of closeups of the faithful. As if someone who wanted to assist at a televised Mass needed that. [Hear hear! I was watching the direct internet feed from CTV, so I didn’t have the incessant chatter from the guys at RAI or CTV, but the video portion inflicted constant closeups of people in the square, sometimes praying or watching intently, often eyes wandering around or aping at the camera when they saw themselves on the screen. You expect that sort of thing at ball games on the jumbotron, but… at Mass?]
Other television programs rightly do not suffer from a similar violation. For example, someone who watches an opera on TV sees and hears the opera, not the faces of the spectators present in the theater, nor even less the chatter of some announcer superimposed on the music. In the same way, the viewer of a live brodcast of a papal Mass would expect to see and hear, simply, the Mass, and not something else. [About the audio. This is a problem with the English language on EWTN too. I believe they get their audio from the English section of Vatican Radio. However, radio people tend to talk more, so they don’t have dead air. That is a problem for those who have video and not just audio. Also, the "color commentator" got things wrong. Pretty distracting. However, when I did review a bit of the Mass coverage from EWTN, I noted to myself at the time that they were in fact talking less than I remember in the past. So, maybe they are trying to make adjustments. I don’t know. I will try to find out.]
What is instead dished up to him is a bunch of images which for the most part are out of place. Let’s not even talk about the audio. [I didn’t hear the audio from CTV or RAI this time, but I have in the past. They just can’t shut up. Perhaps they are using the feed from Vatican Radio?]
To make the disaster worse they also add dreadful mistakes of framing the shot. In the Mass for Palm Sunday, at the beginning of his sermon, the Pope was not in the picture, as would be a logical: the sermon began which the picture was wandering around here and there. And during the singing of the Passion by three deacons, every time one of them was framed in the picture, there was almost always some mistake, that is, he wasn’t the one singing. It’s as if, at a concert, they showed the tenor when the soprano was singing, or they show the flautists during a violin solo.
The TV coverage of papal Masses is handled by the Centro Televisivo Vaticano [CTV] in collaboration with the RAI. The details are well explained in an article by Fr. Virgilio Fantuzzi in La Civiltà Cattolica of 19 July 2003 reproduced at www.chiesa: “Liturgia papale, radio e televisione"
Five years after the article, the woes which were denounced persist intact. If not worse yet.