Is live-streaming funerals a good thing?

Posted: 29/01/2018

It is no longer surprising that in the digital age with life in, that there has been a trend in living-streaming funerals. Technology has the power to connect us with people all around the world. Thus, live streaming funerals seem like an efficient way to give those who cannot physically attend a way to “virtually” attend.

Recently, more and more crematoriums have been fitting webcams into their premises in order to provide a live streaming service by which mourners can be present at the funeral, even when thousands of miles away.

In a survey recently conducted of funeral directors, it found that 61 percent of funeral directors had at some point received requested for funerals to be live-streamed. The survey also found that around a fifth of the 281 crematoriums in Britain already had a webcam installed.

How does it work?

funeral-web-casting

The way it works is a digital camera is discreetly set up in the crematorium chapel. This camera captures the service, live-streaming it online where it is able to be accessible and watched via any computer terminal around the world. In most cases, to gain access to the stream you are required to enter a secure username and password which is issued to the viewer.

Because the stream is a one-way feed, virtual mourners do not need to dress up and can grief as they wish as they are not being watched. However, there have been reports of the families bringing in their own devices and directly skyping relatives – in the case, the mourners on the other end of the webcam can be seen.

Is it a good idea?

Live-streaming seems like a great idea on the surface. It allows far-flung mourners who cannot afford to travel across the world for a funeral or those who have commitments elsewhere, to be included in the funeral service of a loved one.

However, this is causing controversy. Many people fear that the use of webcams at funerals will result in people using it as an excuse not to attend the service in person. In turn, this would be denying the family of the deceased the support that is so crucial during a time of grief and mourning. It has been noted that whilst the live streaming service may be useful to those living abroad, there is a danger that the trend will simply pander to people’s laziness.

The president of the Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors, Paul Allcock, states that streaming a funeral live is “wonderful for those relatives who live abroad, but there’s also a danger of pandering to people’s laziness and not attending personally and sharing your condolences, which is such an important part of the grieving process”.

Another concern people in the funeral industry may have with live-streaming funerals is that the streams may succumb to a number of technical issues. Technical issues are likely to become very distressing in these circumstances, especially if a crucial part of the service is missed.

There are reservations amongst those in the funeral industry that the rise of live-streaming may over time change the attendance and who turns up to the funeral. Before live streaming, a family living in Manchester but attending a funeral in London would make no grumbles about the short journey down south. But now, with the option of live-streaming, the Manchester family can easier stay at home and still attend the funeral. Funeral director Robert Hickmott said: “They may not travel great distances but watch online, but that’s a long-term view, ten years’ time”.

Celebrity funerals live streamed in 2016, two major celebrities opted for their funerals to be publically live streamed, meaning they could be watched by their fans.

“Lemmy”, the frontman of Motörhead and heavy metal legend’s funeral took place in Hollywood in January 2016. The entire service was live-streamed on YouTube. The live-stream was not a one-off “if you miss it is gone” situation, you can still watch the memorial service in full on YouTube right here. His fans were encouraged to join in the stream through this message:

“We want you ALL to be a part of this memorial service. So wherever you are, PLEASE get together and watch with fellow Motörheadbangers and friends. GO to your favourite bar, or your favourite club makes sure they have access to an internet connection and toast along with us. Or simply invite your pals around and celebrate Lemm’s life at home. Whatever your venue, and, however, you can, let’s be sure to gather globally on Saturday 9th and celebrate the life of our dear friend and irreplaceable icon.”

Similarly, René Angélil, the husband of Celine Dion, wanted to have his memorial service live-streamed. The whole stream lasted for seven hours, but around 2 and half hours can still be viewed on a YouTube, racking up 1M views.

No doubt this trend will only grow as the years go by and as the demand by fans rises for various famous faces to stream their final goodbyes.

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