KCET's longtime home near Sunset Junction, turned over to the Church of Scientology in April, will become the home of a religious broadcasting center to promote Scientology teachings over TV, radio and the Internet. "The church plans to establish a central media hub for our growing world network of churches and to move into the production of religious television and radio broadcasting," spokeswoman Karin Pouw told Reuters. She gave no timetable.
From the Reuters story on the TV studio:
Scientology TV could be similar to Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network or the Trinity Broadcast Network. Trinity creates Christian programming at a production center in Irving, Texas, and airs it on TV stations and cable channels, said Rick Ross, whose non-profit Rick A. Ross Institute in Trenton, New Jersey, maintains an online archive of data on cults and controversial movements.
"Hollywood is a major hub for creative talent and some of them are Scientologists," said Ross. "They'd have a lot of talented folks who could produce shows and stars like Tom Cruise who would appear on them."
Elayne Rapping, a pop-culture expert and professor of American studies at the University of Buffalo, told Reuters she is not surprised by the church's move.
"Having their own TV is a good idea since they can spin things their way," she said. "They are after good PR which they can control to offset the bad publicity surrounding them in other media.
KCET sold the studio, one of Hollywood's oldest and most historic, to Scientology in 2011. The public television station downsized to Burbank as part of its adjustment to severing its long-time ties to PBS.
Scientology has taken a media hammering since the Katie Holmes-Tom Cruise breakup became public. Even though the couple's divorce was settled privately and fairly quickly, the news seems to have triggered a new surge of stories about the church's unusual practices and high-profile defections, along with allegations of involuntary confinement at its compound in Riverside County. Heber Jentzsch, the 76-year-old president of the of the Church of Scientology International, has not been seen in public since about 2004 and is believed to be held at the compound, according to Tony Ortega, editor of the Village Voice, who reports frequently on the church.
Ortega reports today that Jentzsch will be allowed to leave the Riverside County compound to attend a Thursday memorial for his son, Alexander, at Scientology's Hollywood Celebrity Centre on Franklin Avenue. Alexander was found dead at the Los Angeles home of his in-laws on July 3. His mother, Karen de la Carriere, is a former top Scientology member who has publicly complained that she was provided no information on his illness or his death because the church classifies her as a "suppressed person." She has been barred from Thursday's service, Ortega reports.
File photo of former KCET studio lot: LA Observed