SHOCKER – ‘NORMAL’ NEWS! Svalbard again top ‘TV auction’ donor as per-person average of 397 kr. and 1M kr. total similar to past years, despite COVID-19 impairments


It’s such an exceedingly rare ordinary and good bit of “news we report every year” during the current surreal COVID-19 times it’s truly exceptional news indeed: Svalbard is yet again the highest per-person contributor to a nationwide “TV auction” fundraiser – and the individual and areawide donations are remarkably similar to recent years despite some limitations on activities due to virus-mandated restrictions.


Anne Lise Klungseth Sandvik, head of this year’s local fundraising campaign, and Sveinung Lystrup Thesen, using a bottle of hand sanitizer as a temporary gavel, preside over an auction at Kulturhuset on Sunday as the finale in a month-long series of events. Photo by Mark Sabbatini / Icepeople.

Svalbard residents donated slightly more than 397 kroner per-person, resulting in a far more dominating first-place finish than some recent “narrow margin” years, as the next place finishers were Utsira at 294.58 kroner and Træna at 202.82 kroner, according to NRK, which hosts the annual campaign.

The “win” came despite the fact the COVID-19 pandemic has inflicted the harshest economic impact on Longyearbyen among Norwegian municipalities, including massive layoffs and some businesses suffering a near-total loss of income since March.

“It all went well and I’m not surprised,” Anne Lise Klungseth Sandvik, head of the local fundraising campaign for many years, stated in an online interview. “I knew that the generosity is huge here and people want to support the TV auction. I feel that people like the fact that we top the list every year.”


A potential bidder inspects a handmade clock on one of the tables featuring items for bid during Sunday’s auction at Kulturhuset. Photo by Mark Sabbatini / Icepeople.

A total of nearly one million kroner was collected in Svalbard as of late Sunday night. About 465,000 kroner of that came from a multi-auction auction during the evening at Kulturhuset where roughly 100 items – including many unique/eccentric items such as cruises on the governor’s service vessel and person concerts by local musicians – were up for bid.

But while the event is the traditional local finale, there were notable virus-related differences this year include a limit on the number of in-person attendees, resulting in an online live broadcast so viewers could also submit bids. There were also minor noticeable moments in a night filled with the typical humor accompanying the long “sales pitch,” including longtime auctioneer Sveinung Lystrup Thesen getting the bidding going using a bottle of hand sanitizer as a temporary replacement for a gavel.

Last year’s Svalbard campaign also raised just short of one million kroner, with residents donating about 420 kroner per-person.

This year’s nationwide campaign raised 215 million kroner, an average of 40.43 kroner per resident, with the proceeds going to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to boost its effort to reduce plastic and other waste in oceans – an issue posing a direct and increasing threat along most of Svalbard’s shores. But the nationwide campaign also had its unique struggles due to the virus – and partisan politics.


Svalbard again finished first overall nationally among the 357 municipalities participating in this year’s national TV auction. Graph courtesy of NRK.

“Due to the corona situation, the TV campaign became fully digital this year,” NRK stated in its summary, noting among other things there were no door-to-door collections for the first time. “In addition, 23 municipalities boycotted the campaign because WWF wants more predators in Norwegian nature. There was, therefore, tension about what the end result would be.”

Sandvik, who was brought in to chair this year’s local campaign at the last moment after saying she wanted to retire from the duty this year, said the effort again proved rewarding despite the virus-related struggles.

“Hard times, yes, but still many of us can live normal lives, and we want to have some entertainment and activities,” she said.

“Still, I hope to retire next year and not be in charge.”