Radio Goo-Goo, Radio Hanukkah

XM Satellite Radio provides an alternative to "Rudolph" and "Silver Bells" at XM108.

December 11, 2006 18:22
2 minute read.
Radio Goo-Goo, Radio Hanukkah

radio 88. (photo credit: )


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Every year, the relentless refrains of "Santa Baby" and "Silver Bells" and other saccharine Christmas lyrics seem to fill every radio frequency, not to mention the airwaves in stores and 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 has an escape: She can tune her XM Satellite Radio to XM108 for Radio Hanukkah. Though the potential audience is likely rather 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, bell-clinging sounds of Christmas. "It's 24 hours of Hanukkah! I'll be dancing the horah," said 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 throughout the Festival of Lights, beginning Friday, not only with Hanukkah songs including "I Have a Little Dreidel," but also 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, Massachusetts, said he's 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 gained even more popularity this year. As of Monday, the online radio journal, had counted 399 US stations that had switched to all-Christmas format. By last Christmas, the journal tracked 302 stations, up from a year earlier, when there were 279, but still down from its inaugural count in 2003, when holiday music was all 386 stations broadcast. Stations that opt to go all-Christmas have almost universally found it a success. "It's a very powerful strategy," said Tom Taylor, who edits Inside Radio, a Clear Channel-owned outlet covering the radio industry that operates "It works." XM is hoping its Hanukkah programming, which joins a network with five Christmas stations, will also fuel membership. It's marketing the station through synagogues, Jewish organizations, rabbinical groups and the like, offering free access to XM during the eight nights of Hanukkah. Washington-based XM 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 Goldberg: "It's about time."

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