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Scientologists Buy Huge Hollywood TV Studio
The Church of Scientology has bought a Hollywood television studio, enabling it to promote its teachings to millions of people via television, radio and the internet.
The church, which counts actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta as members, has spent $42m (£27m) on a broadcasting centre covering almost five acres.
It marks a move away from the use of more traditional media to boost its public profile - in the past the organisation has relied mostly on pamphlets and books by its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, to recruit new members.
"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," church spokeswoman, Karin Pouw, said.
It is not known when production will begin at the studio, which is located on the iconic LA street Sunset Boulevard, close to the organisation's 'Celebrity Centre International' in Hollywood.
Professor of American studies at the University of Buffalo, Elayne Rapping, said she was 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."
The organisation has been accused of being a cult by former participants, and some have claimed it abuses its members by separating children and parents, among other things - although it denies such allegations.
It has recently been in the news following Cruise's divorce from actress Katie Holmes, which fuelled speculation that the couple disagreed over raising their six-year-old daughter Suri as a Scientologist.
Travolta has also been making headlines after a former cruise-line worker brought a sex-related lawsuit against him.
As such, broadcasting from the new centre could promote the church in a more positive light - with the possibility that some of its celebrity members appear in productions.
The Hollywood studio will complement the church's existing facility - Golden Era Productions - in California, which produces DVDs and "other audio-visual materials that comprise a large part of the church's religious and educational materials," Ms Pouw said.
The organisation took control of the centre in April, when its former owners, public television station KCET, moved locations.
Religious broadcasting in the US is no new phenomenon - a number of popular organisations already exist including the Christian Broadcasting Network and Trinity Broadcast Network, which produces Christian programmes at a centre in Texas to air on television stations across the US.
what do you think?
Will the roof have a landing pad so Warlord Kang (or whatever they call their creator) can land his spaceship ? Thats after he dropped Atom bombs into prehistoric volcanos to start life on Earth. . . . . Obviously. Dont think their new TV station is going to have much appeal. . . . . . It'll be as interesting as watching a brick.