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Air America Closing

Broadcaster intends to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection

Air America is going away, leaving its supporters and critics to argue over whether its failure was due to conservative consumer preferences, poor business decisions or powerful economic factors.

The liberal talk program producer — which came into the market to considerable fanfare, promising a progressive alternative to popular conservative radio shows like Rush Limbaugh’s — has ended live programming and plans to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy to wind down the business.

That’s according to a memo from Air America Chair Charlie Kireker sent to employees and distributed to trade press late Thursday.

In the memo, Kireker said the difficult economic environment in 2009 had been a “perfect storm” for media in general and had a “significant” impact on Air America’s business. He said the companies that remain in business face audience fragmentation as a result of new media technologies, are often saddled with crushing debt and have generally found it difficult to obtain operating or investment capital from traditional sources of funding.

“In this climate, our painstaking search for new investors has come close several times right up into this week, but ultimately fell short of success,” wrote Kireker.

Though Internet/new media revenues are projected to grow, Air America’s expanding online efforts face the same monetization and profitability challenges in the short term confronting the Web operations of most media companies, he noted.

The company plans to execute a “rapid, orderly closure” over the next few days, Kireker notes in the memo. Current employees were to be paid through Jan. 21. A severance package was to be offered to full-time employees who have more than six months of tenure.

The broadcaster hopes to ensure a smooth transition for affiliates and partners. It planned to provide repeats until 9 p.m. Eastern on Monday, Jan. 25. At that time, Air America programming will end, according to the company.

Air America began in 2004 with personalities like Al Franken and saw itself as a progressive voice. “When dissent on issues such as the Iraq war were denounced as ‘un-American,’ Air America and its team helped Americans remember the importance of compelling discussion about the most pivotal events and decisions of our generation,” Kireker wrote.

The broadcaster had filed for Chapter 11 protection in 2006.