by Monte Sahlin

By Adventist Today News Team, June 3, 2014

The city council in Simi Valley, California, has voted a marketing strategy to find a buyer for the 120,000-square-foot building where the Adventist Media Center has been located since 1995. It is available for $15.5 million, according to a report in the Ventura County Star.

This is the second time that its facilities have been sold since what was originally named the Adventist Radio, Television and Film Center was first organized in the early 1970s. In 1972 the first media ministries moved into two buildings on a campus near the boarding academy of the denomination's Southern California Conference and not far from Simi Valley. By the mid-1970s the campus looked like a small college with three major buildings in a U formation; the administration building in the center with services used by all the media ministries such as printing, mailing and duplication; the television building to the left and the radio building to the right.

In 1995 the ministries and services moved into the Simi Valley building with less space in order to reduce costs and realized an influx of cash from the sale of the original campus. Last year the center board voted to close, "saying that continuing to operate from Simi Valley was too expensive," the newspaper stated. Sources have told Adventist Today that some of the ministries had long wanted to move to various locations and not be required to use the common services at the center.

"All the ministries are relocating to other areas," Warren Judd, the center manager, was quoted by the Star. "The ministries can do more with the money donated to them if they're living in a cheaper area." He told the newspaper that although a number of the employees will be moving with the ministries, about 50 will be laid off. "Judd said he has mixed feelings about the decision, which will break up a well-established media team," the Star reported.

The dream that led to the founding of the media center saw creative synergy from bringing together the major media ministries of the denomination "to produce more and varied programs for both public service and paid-time releases," according to a report on the first full year of operations by Alvin G. Munson, the founding manager. Locating in southern California brought the ministries near the major center of media technology and production for the world.

By 1990 an assessment and audience research report by Frank N. Magid, a major media consultant, warned that as the founding personalities of the ministries passed from the scene and competition increased in religious broadcasting, it would be difficult to maintain the impact of the ministries. At the time it was thought the media center could help the ministries develop a new generation of programming, but over the next two decades much of the energy went into retreading broadcasts that began in the 1940s and 1950s. Sustaining fund raising became a larger goal than reaching the increasingly secular general public. Adventist media centers were started in many other nations and fewer of the products created in southern California were broadcast overseas.

A year ago the center's board voted to close joint operations and instructed each ministry to make their own decision about where to relocate. The six ministries have until October 31 to move. Breath of Life television has already announced it is moving to Huntsville, Alabama, where its African American support base has historic ties. The Voice of Prophecy radio ministry announced recently that it is looking for space in northern Colorado where its founder, Pastor H. M. S. Richards, Sr., preached nearly a century ago.

"We're targeting television channels," Stacy Vierheilig-Fraser from the real estate company assigned to sell the facility told the Star. "Their sound stages are really phenomenal. Instead of a catwalk, the lighting system is on electric controls and can be lowered to your level instead of someone having to go up on a catwalk." Edit bays, voice-over booths, makeup area, prop storage and a warehouse are all part of the facility. With the growing number of cable television channels, the company expects to quickly find a new owner.

Sources have told Adventist Today about plans for independent initiatives to keep the center open. It does not appear that any of these will come to fruition. The cost of production in today's world is enormous and broadcasting is being replaced by Internet distribution such as Ask the Author, a new weekly Bible study based on the Sabbath School lesson produced at Oakwood University, and The Record Keeper drama series based on the 19th century volume, The Great Controversy by Ellen G. White, a cofounder of the Adventist denomination.