- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Christmas came to WASH-FM (97.1) in November, when the soft-rock station made its annual switch to an all-holiday-music format in the month before the big holiday.

But Christmas came again yesterday when Arbitron Inc. released ratings that showed listenership for WASH surged during the holiday-music stunt.

The station rose to fifth place among listeners 12 and older during the period from Sept. 23 to Dec. 15. During the comparable period in 2003, WASH was in a three-way tie for eighth place with sister oldies station WBIG-FM (100.3) and news-and-talk station WMAL-AM (630).

“We treat Christmas as a marketing opportunity to bring people to the station,” said Bill Hess, program director for WASH and WBIG. The station tries to lure listeners during the holidays and then keep them around the rest of the year with its regular mix of soft-rock artists such as Elton John and Rod Stewart, Mr. Hess said.

Other big gainers in the fall included news-and-talk station WMAL, which airs the syndicated Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity shows. WMAL ranked sixth in the fall, up from the three-way tie with WASH and WBIG for eighth-place tie in fall 2003.

Heavy interest in the presidential election helped WMAL’s surge, said Chris J. Berry, the station’s president and general manager.

“Everybody had the opportunity to cover the election, but not everyone could present it the way we did, with a lot of analysis,” Mr. Berry said.

WHFS-FM (99.1), the rock station that flipped to a Spanish-language format last week, ranked 19th, the same spot it held in fall 2003.

Howard Stern, whose program is slated to move to satellite radio next year, tied with WASH’s team of Loo Katz and Lori Brooks for ninth place during the morning drive. Among adults between ages 25 and 54, the group most advertisers try to reach, Mr. Stern fared better, ranking fifth.

The top morning show in both key demographics — listeners 12 and older and adults 25 to 54 — belonged to Mike Moss and Richard Day, the anchors at all-news station WTOP (1500 AM and 107.7 FM).

As usual, urban music stations WPGC-FM (95.5) and WMMJ-FM (102.3) and WTOP were the top three stations among listeners 12 and older overall.

The top three stations among adults 25 to 54 were WMMJ, WPGC and WASH.

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