- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 18, 2001

All-news radio station WTOP, enjoying its best ratings since the Persian Gulf war, has vaulted to second place among Washington's 34 commercial stations.
The station leaped ahead of stalwart urban music stations WMMJ-FM and WKYS-FM between mid-October and mid-November, according to figures released Friday by the Arbitron Inc. ratings service.
WTOP, which broadcasts on the AM and FM bands, has been creeping up in the ratings since the September 11 terrorist attacks. It tied with WMMJ for third place in early fall, Arbitron said.
"This is a historical high for us," said Jim Farley, WTOP's vice president of news and programming.
Listeners clamoring for the latest information on the war in Afghanistan and terrorism have boosted ratings for news and talk stations across the nation.
In some cities, including Detroit and Boston, news and talk stations sit atop the ratings heap.
The challenge facing the stations is holding onto their audience when the war coverage winds down, said William M. Meyers, an industry analyst for Wall Street brokerage Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.
"It is not clear if the numbers are sustainable," Mr. Meyers said.
Ratings for news stations rose during the Persian Gulf war, but fell when the war ended. "The key difference is that the Gulf war wasn't fought at home," Mr. Meyers said.
Stations often raise their advertising rates after a big ratings boost. WTOP won't consider raising its rates until mid-January, Mr. Farley said, when Arbitron releases ratings for the entire fall season.
WTOP recorded a 5.8 rating, also called a "share of radio listening," between mid-October and mid-November, up from a 5.4 rating in the weeks after September 11, Arbitron said. A rating measures the number of people who listen to a station and the time they spend listening.
WMAL-AM, a local talk station that carries the Rush Limbaugh and Laura Schlessinger shows, was ranked No. 13 in the latest ratings report.
Its 3.5 rating was slightly higher than the 3.4 rating it recorded in late summer and early fall.
WTOP's midautumn numbers helped it break the troika of urban music stations that usually dominate Washington's radio airwaves.
WPGC-FM remains the top-rated station in Washington, but WMMJ and WKYS usually ranked No. 2 and No. 3, respectively have each slid one place, Arbitron said.



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