Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Unsecured creditors fighting Air America for money

From the Sacramento Bee:

Paula Nelson, owner of KSAC (1240AM) in Sacramento just wants her money. She claims it to be close to $1 million.

Whether she sees that amount, or whether she'll be paid at all in the Air America Radio bankruptcy reorganization case remains to be seen. And nobody has said what the disputed amount really is, or why it is owed.

Nelson is chief executive officer and president of Sacramento-based Diamond Broadcasting, which owns radio station Talk City KSAC, 1240 AM. She was named Tuesday as part of a trio representing unsecured creditors in bankruptcy proceedings involving the liberal-leaning radio network. The trio also includes William Kimball, executive producer of Air America's flagship "The Al Franken Show," and a representative from the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA).

The next court date in Air America's case is scheduled for Oct. 31, according to Tracy Klestadt,the attorney representing the radio network. Klestadt declined to comment further on the case Tuesday.

Air America programming was heard on KSAC until last November, when the network switched to KCTC, 1320 AM. Air America officials at the time cited KCTC's stronger signal and ability to reach outlying cities, such as Stockton and Yuba City. Nobody has really said in public what the real reason for the switch was. Other rumors circulated at the time regarding KSAC often preempting programming. Again, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

But the KSAC/Air America split seemed to have become personal. In a Sacramento Bee story in October 2005, Nelson said the relationship between Talk City and Air America had eroded and that the network had turned its back on the Sacramento station, even though KSAC built a following for Air America's progressive programming.

Nelson also claimed that she persuaded Air America to affiliate with her station, though they had no plans to enter the Sacramento market. Then, she accused them of dumping her.

"I put a tremendous amount of resources building up their profile in Sacramento," Nelson said then. "I convinced them they could get a following. Now, they snub their noses at us and go to another station."

The unsecured creditors such as Nelson, Kimball and others are much lower on the totem pole compared to secured creditors such as former Air America chairman and RealNetworks CEO Rob Glaser, who is owed $9.8 million. His loans are secured by collateral, and are at the front of the line. Unsecured creditors get what's left.

According to the Associated Press, Kimball is owed nearly $85,000 in back pay. Nelson's claim is for $500,000 but is listed as "disputed." She claims the amount is really closer to $1 million.

"No hard feelings on my part," Nelson said. "I just want my money."


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