KTWU raises funds with ‘Lights, Camera, Auction’

Brandon Bills

Topeka’s public television station KTWU Channel held its annual on-air fundraising event Nov. 13 through 16. For four consecutive evenings, merchandise and services were auctioned to viewers who bid from home by telephone.

The items auctioned were all donated by individuals and businesses in the KTWU viewing area. Items included everything from travel packages to barbecue sauce packages. Other items were books, furniture, vehicles and local artwork.

“It’s a fun and exciting part of the Topeka community,” said Amanda Artzer, auction manager.

Several hosts and auctioneers conducted the auction, which was broadcast live from KTWU’s Ruth Garvey Fink studio. Phil Grecian hosted the Sunday evening auction, the night when most of the big ticket items were auctioned off.

“I’m the resident doofus,” said Grecian. “I jump up and down in a tux and keep things interesting.”

Grecian has volunteered with the auction since the early ’80s.

Grecian remembers one year when a huge antique organ was being auctioned. Some viewers who considered bidding on the organ wanted a demonstration. Since no one in the studio knew how to play, Grecian pounded on the keys as a demonstration.

“It’s worth it just to watch Phil, he gets so excited with the board on Sunday night,” said Artzer.

All fun aside, “Lights, Camera, Auction” is ultimately about providing the funding so that KTWU can continue airing quality programming to Northeast Kansas. Unfortunately, the economy could pose a problem.

“This year, we’re a little unsure,” said Cindy Barry.

Artzer said fewer items for auction were donated this year. Barry is concerned that viewers may not be able to bid as high on items. This could lead to KTWU falling short of the auction’s $45,000 goal.

Nationwide, PBS stations’ September pledge drives were down by 10 percent from the previous year. However, KTWU’s was up 3-4 percent. KTWU’s September drive raised $70,000, exceeding the goal of $65,000, but that was before the bad news about the economy hit.

“October was our first indication that things might be tough,” said Artzer.

KTWU saw the first reduction in fundraising in October. While total fundraising dropped, it was due to individuals and underwriters giving less, not a reduction in contributors. If fundraising revenue continues to drop, the KTWU will have to either increase fundraising efforts or face budgets cuts.

“The station isn’t running on a chubby budget as it is,” said Barry.