But in the northeast, static gives way to a station calling itself Radio Caroline and an eclectic mix of music, radio plays and time checks. How eclectic? How about this artist list: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, The Beatles, Marlene Dietrich, Michael Jackson, Doris Day, and Michael McDonald and James Ingram. (When was the last time you heard "Que Sera, Sera," much less "Yah Mo B There?")
At least when we've been listening, the radio plays seem to have a sci-fi bent, including one involving astronauts visiting a planet where a device apparently steals their memories and heads them back toward childhood.
There are no commercials, but time checks occasionally refer to the station receiving support from local businesses, and state that Caroline is "broadcasting from the eclectic corners of Tucson."
Yep, it appears pirate radio has returned to Tucson, just about seven years to the day after the June 21, 1997 launch of Radio Limbo, which also sneaked onto local radios at 103.3 FM. Limbo was one of a horde of low-power illegal FM stations protesting the corporatization of radio nationwide. (By the way, Radio Limbo's Web site--www.radiolimbo.org--remains alive.)
Limbo went off the air in November 1999 when Federal Communications Commission and Forest Service officials confiscated the main transmitter, which was set up in the Pusch Ridge Wilderness Area. Despite the location, Limbo covered most of Tucson, taking advantage of early streaming-audio technology on the Internet.
Tucson's Caroline apparently took its name and cue from the legendary "Radio Caroline" offshore radio rebels who challenged the British Broadcasting Corp.'s radio monopoly in March 1964. Two ships with radio studios aboard anchored outside territorial waters and began playing music that couldn't get on the BBC's set lists. (The original Caroline is still alive and kicking, transmitting by satellite rather than a converted ferry on the high seas. If you'd like to know more about the past, checkout the Web site at www.radiocaroline.co.uk.)
The Tucson pirate station's signal is confined to the northeast part of town--north of Broadway Boulevard, east of Craycroft Road, west of Catalina Highway, and south of Snyder Road. Best reception is near Tanque Verde and Sabino Canyon roads--assuming, of course, that the feds haven't found the transmitter and nabbed it (an eerie thought--reminiscent of those old Radio Free Europe TV ads in the late 1950s when the Red Army commissar smashed a radio with an axe and stamped a hammer and sickle on the headboard of a baby's bed). If you're nailed for running a pirate station, it's a $10,000 fine, plus loss of equipment, and those who persist can face criminal charges.
What gives the local Caroline venture a little twist is that the frequency is already spoken for, sort of. The FCC database shows two applications for translator construction permits pending on that frequency in Tucson. Both applications were filed during a window for translator authorizations in March 2003, but neither appears to be active at the moment.
One applicant is Desert West Air Ranchers Corp., based in Jackson, Wyo., and owned by former local broadcaster Ted Tucker. His application says he plans to use the frequency to import programming from KCDX-FM in Florence (see Media Watch, April 7, "Another Radio Player?").
The other applicant is Kevin J. Youngers of Greeley, Colo., a sports-car racer who applied for the frequency to be a translator for KVNA-FM in Flagstaff. At the time Youngers applied, KVNA was on a different frequency and under different ownership.
KVNA is now owned by Yavapai Broadcasting, whose general manager, Dave Kessel, said last week that he'd never heard of Youngers, and knew nothing of any such agreement. Neither Tucker nor Youngers replied to requests for interviews.
Parris, 71, became hooked on a fledgling medium called television in 1954 as a student working with the University of Nebraska's KUON-TV. He's been a player in the local broadcast scene since 1978, joining KGUN as station and program manager. He was the ABC affiliate's general manager from 1983 to 1987. He joined KUAT in 1988 as assistant general manager for the video services unit, and became general manager in 1998.
Earlier this year, he became the inaugural member in the Gold Circle Society of the National Television Academy's Rocky Mountain Southwest chapter, honoring a half-century in the industry. He was inducted into the Arizona Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame in 2003.
Retirement apparently doesn't mean he'll stop working, however. The announcement states that Parris plans to offer media consulting services.
Goldberg came to Tucson from the managing editor's gig at the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza in Incline Village, Nev. While in at the Citizen, he also was city editor and business editor.