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CLEAR CHANNEL GOES HISPANIC

Two weeks ago, Clear Channel Radio announced a national initiative to convert 20 to 25 of its stations over the next 12 to 18 months to various sorts of Hispanic formats. The corporation, which raked in nearly $9 billion last year, even hired Hispanic radio veteran Alfredo Alonso as vice president of its new Hispanic division.

But don't look for much to change in Tucson, where Clear Channel owns seven stations (and counting). Two of the chain's 18 current Spanish-programming stations are already right here: 97.1 KTZR, "Que Suave," and AM 1600 KXEW, with its Tejano format.

Debra Wagner, general manager of the local Clear Channel operations, says she's pleased with the performance of the two stations in a surprisingly difficult market for Spanish-language programming.

"In Tucson, the listenership hasn't been there, because the formats haven't been there," she says. "There have not been a lot of choices for the Hispanic market, which is why we moved the contemporary hit format for the Hispanic audience to the FM station, where it has a better signal and reach."

Wagner says the stations are enjoying good ratings and good advertising revenue from national, regional and local sources. But there are no current plans to convert any of the other Tucson Clear Channel stations to Hispanic formats. "I would look at that more if we had something else coming up," she says, somewhat cryptically. "We'd have to look at the market conditions at the time, and see if it would work with our business plan."

Don't hold your breath, but Wagner may just have such an opportunity in the next few months. More on that next week.


AWARD-WINNING SHORTS

Garpenfargle sounds like a bungled German translation of an old John Irving novel, but it's actually the title of a short film that won the top prize at the Sept. 11 Reel Inspiring Film Contest here in Tucson.

The competition was sponsored by Tucson-based Reel Inspiration, a grassroots organization that encourages filmmakers to develop their own voices and "make films that matter." According to the organization's mission statement, Reel Inspiration's goal is to "encourage and promote the production and theatrical success of a diverse array of films with entertaining, powerful stories that uplift, challenge, give hope, or inspire the human consciousness."

The challenge for this competition was to make a film of five minutes or less about the good in the world today. The time limit probably wasn't much of a problem.

However Garpenfargle fits into that schema, the short's makers, Tucsonans Bill Kersey and Edward Kim, parlayed it into the Best Film award. Kersey also got the Popular Choice award (voted on by about 200 attendees) for another short, Solace.

Derek Griffith won the Tucson Filmmaker award for his entry, Somebody Loves Me.

Locals didn't quite sweep the field. Second prize for Best Film went to Los Angelino Jaqueline Veissid for The Mysterious Mystery of Something Important.

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