It stinks that General Motors owes several prominent advertising conglomerates and their subsidiaries something like $167 million in unpaid fees. The unsecured creditors include firms like Paris-based Publicis and its division Starcom MediaVest Group, as well as the 2nd largest U.S. ad agency Interpublic Group and its McCann Erickson unit. And they aren’t even going to receive 100% of their claims, according to news reports like Bloomberg. Nevertheless both ad agencies will stay with the GM account, and GM will stick with both ad agencies, until the car company comes out of its bankruptcy. So where does this leave the TV biz? In a lousy place at the back of the line…

Those ad agencies bought airtime with the TV networks, cable channels, syndicators, and station groups. And only after the advertising companies get their money from GM will anyone start thinking about paying CBS, ABC, CNN, Fox News Channel, and other TV companies. No one knows how much the ad agencies and others among the Top 50 unsecured creditors will receive from GM until the car company makes its presentations in bankruptcy court. So no one knows how much the TV biz will receive after that. Interpublic Chief Financial Officer Frank Mergenthaler said on April 28 that his company’s cash exposure to GM would be $150 million in a bankruptcy. (Interpublic also has Hollywood PR and management/production firms.) Broadcasting & Cable says this has become a “big issue” among TV companies. Like, duh. “It’s prompted a debate between media buying agencies and their TV partners over liability and who gets paid when, and who is a preferred supplier.” I suspect Century City and Midtown law firms are about to rack up billable hours over this.