The Einstein Channel has not paid wages to presenters and fees to production companies for more than a year, while several creditors are attempting to shut it down.
The scientific programming channel, now screened as Simply Einstein on Sky's digital service, is owned by the Einstein Group. The company, whose shares are traded on the Alternative Investment Market, has admitted the cash position is tight. On Friday the shares closed at 0.47p, down from a peak of 58p when Einstein floated in March 2000.
Einstein has faced a series of winding-up petitions from staff, landlords and the taxman. The Inland Revenue's case was dismissed, and the company said the debt was paid, but petitions from its former head of broadcasting, Sara Wookey, and a former landlord are still outstanding. It also owes money for offices rented from internet company Netbenefit in London's Clerkenwell.
Nor has Einstein paid two independent production companies for work done. They are owed debts in the tens of thousands, despite being told the money was ring-fenced as part of a tax-break scheme.
Seven presenters are understood still to be owed moneyfor a series of short films. One, Ramita Navai, is owed £1,000 after a year's waiting and several bounced cheques. Another, Esme Floyd, has a £1,000 debt outstanding for 15 months.
Einstein's finance director, Paul Fowler, denied the company was trading insolvently and said it had been advised that administration was not appropriate. He said he was negotiating with creditors over payment. "We do owe some people money," he said. "We are trying to work ourselves out of a difficult market... We will attempt to pay them in short order."
The company told investors in February that it had raised £700,000 in loans, to be used to pay existing creditors.
Einstein holds its annual general meeting this Friday, but has not yet issued preliminary results. Its auditors said that, due to lack of evidence, they could not decide whether its 2001 statements gave a true and fair account of its affairs. Einstein must issue 2002 figures by 30 June.
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