Rivas, the program director of KOHT in Tucson, says few bilingual formats have been tried in the United States. On the East Coast, salsa and merengue complete the mix instead of tejano. Perhaps most notable are the places where he says the format has not been tried, such as heavily Latino Los Angeles and Dallas.
One reason he says KOHT ownership was so open to the changes he made in the station's already bilingual format was that it was near the bottom of the ratings. "I came in saying, the audience I'm gonna take is not the people listening to other Spanish stations, but the Mexican Americans listening to country, Top 40, adult contemporary," he says. "The hard part is, nobody's ever done it this way. There's no rule book. It's been pretty much just throw it at the wall and see what sticks."
But clearly the listenership is out there--a free show sponsored by KOHT and featuring the Barrio Boyz drew 20,000 people to a park in Tucson. Whether it's an audience advertisers care to reach remains to be seen.
"The stations in Phoenix are probably sitting back saying, 'We're gonna wait and see,'" Rivas says.
"It could work," says Mario Gonzalez, KSUN's skeptical program director. "But only time will tell. In my humble opinion, it doesn't make no sense."
"Nobody has done what he [Cortez] is doing," says Bobby Gonzales, a member of local band Barrio Latino. "And nobody does what James [Rivas] is doing. If you put those two personalities together, you'd have a hell of a show.