Pay-per-view funerals go live online

A South Korean surfs an Internet site at an Internet cafe in Seoul February 25, 2006. REUTERS/You Sung-Ho

LONDON (Reuters) - Pay-per-view funerals go live online on Tuesday, allowing mourners who cannot attend services in person to pay their last respects via the Internet.

Despite criticism of the scheme as macabre, the company who launched the service, Wesley Music, is planning to offer it to crematoria across the country who will charge a one-off payment of around 75 pounds for access to a funeral Webcast.

Mourners use the password to access a live online broadcast of the funeral service captured by a small camera mounted in the chapel.

“Families are dispersed across the world these days and sometimes it’s the case that someone cannot get home in time for a funeral,” said Alan Jeffrey, director of Wesley Music.

“For those who need it, this is a very important service. It means that rather than being excluded, they can at least witness and be a part of a funeral as it happens. In a time of stress this is something that can ease the pain.”

David Powell, of funeral directors Henry Powell and Son in Southampton, said he had already tested the service during three funerals. He insisted they remained private, intimate affairs despite being broadcast on the Web.

“It’s a personal thing. It doesn’t go out for all and sundry to gawk at,” he told Reuters. “There is a password for the family to send to people who want to watch online.”

He said mourners as far away as Australia and Canada had already used the system. “The families have been absolutely delighted to be able to share in the proceedings when it wasn’t possible for them to get over here and attend.”

Reporting by Kate Kelland. Editing by Paul Casciato