Public Television Sheds Old Gear

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Old public television video cameras, LCD Teleprompters, eight-track tapes and even a bank of Princess phones were up for auction on Monday.

WNET, the public television station, auctioned off around 500 lots of outdated items, months after moving its TV production to a new studio with robotic cameras and other state-of-the-art equipment.

“It was time to see what we could do to decommission the studios at the old location,” says WNET chief financial officer Robert Clauser.

WNET moved from West 33rd Street to a smaller space at Lincoln Center in April after shedding about 100 jobs. But, Clauser says the financial future of the company looks bright. The station will unveil a TV news magazine called Metrofocus that he says will deliver hard-hitting local news and attract a new audience.

While WNET is focusing on the future, some auction bidders got nostalgic as they prepared to bid on decades-old equipment.

“I wish I could get the original cost of those electronics. I’d retire six times over. And they’re going to get peanuts for them,” says professional photographer Michael Adams. “They’ve got stacks of professional recorders there that when they were bought ten, fifteen years ago were $10,000 $20,000 $30,000 apiece. But they’re totally useless now. They’re a doorstop.”

WNET executives probably wish they could recoup the original cost too. The auction is expected to bring in between $70,000 and $100,000—only enough to produce between one and three hours of programming.