- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 14, 2006

The constant refrains of “Santa Baby” and “Silver Bells” seem to fill every radio frequency every year, not to mention the airwaves in stores, restaurants and offices. By the time Christmas is over, Terri Lynn says she feels saturated.

This year, the 50-year-old Jewish woman from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has an escape: She can tune her XM Satellite Radio to XM108 for Radio Hanukkah.

Though the potential audience is probably small, XM’s Hanukkah-themed station is being touted as the first radio station of its kind and one celebrated by the satellite network’s Jewish clientele, who have long known December’s airwaves to be filled only with the holly-jolly sounds of Christmas.

“It’s 24 hours of Hanukkah. I’ll be dancing the hora,” said Ms. Lynn, a publicist whose clients include the Salvation Army, the Jewish Federation of Broward County and Habitat for Humanity. “This could be refreshing. Who knows? Maybe non-Jews will start loving these songs, too.”

XM108 will run for the eight nights of the Festival of Lights, beginning tomorrow. Not only will it play Hanukkah songs including “I Have a Little Dreidel” and “Maoz Tzur,” but it will also broadcast candlelight blessings and Jewish-themed specials with celebrities ranging from comedian Al Franken to sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer to the rock band Barenaked Ladies.

There is no similar effort on terrestrial radio; XM competitor Sirius Satellite Radio is offering the thoughts of Hasidic Jewish reggae singer Matisyahu scattered in programming on its Reggae Rhythms network during the eight nights of Hanukkah.

As word spreads of the XM effort, it is generating some excitement.

Leigh Fisher Savar, a 33-year-old financial planner in New York, said she plans to check out the station; most Decembers she finds herself turning the radio off when the hum of holiday songs becomes too much.

“Having to listen to Christmas music for a month straight does become kind of monotonous,” she said.

Ed Shems, a 36-year-old illustrator and designer in Brookline, Mass., said he has grown accustomed to the seasonal barrage of holiday tunes.

“My wife and I usually just look at each other and roll our eyes,” he said.

Regardless of the appeal to listeners, the Hanukkah radio efforts are little match for the airwaves’ Christmas programming, which shows signs of gaining even more popularity this year.

As of Monday, 402 stations from Maine to Hawaii were playing Christmas tunes round-the-clock, including WASH-FM (97.1) in Washington.

XM is hoping its Hanukkah programming, which joins a network with five Christmas stations, will fuel membership. It is marketing the station through synagogues, Jewish organizations, rabbinical groups and the like, offering free access to XM during the eight nights of Hanukkah.

The D.C. satellite radio company says Radio Hanukkah is the brainchild of Chief Executive Hugh Panero, and it’s being produced by Allen Goldberg, who says the channel’s introduction gives him “great satisfaction” after a lifetime of only Christmas music on the radio.

Says Mr. Goldberg: “It’s about time.”

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