LEWISTON, Maine — Citing reduced margins and a need to put scarce resources to their most efficient use, the Maine Public Broadcasting Network announced it is pulling the plug on its annual MPBN Great TV Auction after 40 years.
Usually broadcast over 10 days and nights beginning in late April, MPBN announced that an online-only version of its signature televised auction would be conducted on MPBN’s website ( auction.mpbn.net) throughout the month of November, and that no televised auction would be broadcast in April 2012.
“The combination of reduced state and federal funding, the fragmentation of the TV audience as cable networks have proliferated and, most relevantly, the upcoming retirement of auction director Margie Oxman forced MPBN to make a difficult decision,” says John Isacke, MPBN’s Chief Financial Officer.
Oxman has been with MPBN for 21 years and announced in September her intent to retire at the end of the year.
“The choice we faced was to either reinvest the time and effort to rebuild the Great TV Auction into what it was in its heyday,” Isacke continued, “or recognize that times have changed and that perhaps those resources could be redeployed more effectively.”
Each year, MPBN solicited thousands of donations from businesses and artists and auctioned them off from its studio on Lisbon Street in Lewiston. Donated items ranged from brand new cars to paintings to business services of all kinds, and ran the gamut in value from a minimum of $70 to upwards of $20,000.
But while the gross value of donated goods remained fairly consistent over the years, rising labor and energy costs slowly chipped away at the net amount left for MPBN at the conclusion of each year’s auction — which began when Richard Nixon was in the White House, computers were the size of refrigerators and there were only four broadcast television networks.
Network officials said holding a final online auction would give long-time annual donors one last chance to make a tax-deductible contribution to the network, as well as allow MPBN to raise funds with donated items it has gathered since the end of the last auction.
Businesses who wish to donate goods or services, as well as artists who want to donate individual works, are invited to call MPBN’s auction department at (800) 884-1717.
The network has no plans to layoff two remaining Auction staff workers, who will instead be reassigned within the company.