Briefs from Svalbardposten for the week of Sept. 8, 2020

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Month of local ‘TV auction’ activities start Saturday, with virus-related restrictions

A month of local activities for a national fundraiser – this time to remedy trash in oceans – is scheduled to start Saturday with the traditional relay race starting and ending outside Kulturhuset.

But while the race – many featuring teams with outlandish and speed-impairing outfits – will basically be the same as usual, some events this year are being cancelled or in question due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A flea market at The University Centre in Svalbard, for instance, will not be possible and it’s unknown if a multi-hour evening auction that traditionally wraps up local events can take place at Kulturhuset. Longyearbyen has for many years raised the most per-capita during the campaign, which culminates with a TV auction on NRK scheduled this year for Oct. 18. Anne Lise Klungseth Sandvik, who planned to resign as head of the local events after many years, said she is returning at the request of national organizers in the wake of difficulties presented by the pandemic.  “The idea was to take some time off in the autumn, but I do not need to just sit in a chair,” she said.

Korkpenger funds reduced due to economic hit of COVID-19

This year’s Korkpenger fund for recreational, cultural and other community activities is being reduced to 2.5 million kroner instead of the three million the past couple of years due to a sharp reduction in alcohol retail sales, the profit from which funds the grants. While the Nordpolet retail outlet earned 6.6 million in profit, Longyearbyen’s Community Council voted Tuesday to transfer two million of that to next year’s Korkpenger allocation because Nordpolet is forecasting they will not make a profit this year. In addition, two million kroner is being allocated to repaying a loan for Kulturhuset and compensating for the loss of income at Svalbardhallen due to the pandemic.

Svalbardposten sees record online readership, but huge revenue loss during COVID-19 crisis

Svalbardposten, while like many is suffering severe economic hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is reporting a record online traffic this year, with logged-in users up 57 percent, number of logins up 31 percent and number of articles read up 42 percent compared to 2019. But while the pandemic has made local coverage sought after by readers, the near-total shutdown of tourism and other activities are taking a heavy toll on the bottom line and forcing cost-cutting. “We are in a vulnerable position, like all other Svalbard companies,” said Editor Hilde Røsvik. “So far, we have lost about half a million kroner in advertising revenue due to the coronavirus crisis.” The newspaper has been expanding its digital presence during the past several years and estimates about 40 percent of current subscribers are digital-only.