WMAL Makes Recovery, Takes Top Spot in Spring; Urban Music Stations Dominate Race as Talk Show Outlet Records Big Gains

Article excerpt

Byline: Chris Baker, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Talk radio station WMAL-AM (630) came back to life in the spring, especially during middays, when it zoomed into first place, according to Arbitron Inc. ratings released yesterday.

As usual, urban music stations, such as WPGC-FM (95.5) and WMMJ-FM (102.3), and all-news broadcaster WTOP (1500 AM and 107.7 FM) dominated the spring ratings race, which took place March 27 through June 18.

WMAL, a once-mighty station that has struggled in recent years, recorded some of the greatest gains. The ABC-owned broadcaster is the local home of syndicated talkers Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, whose programs probably benefited from strong interest in the war in Iraq, executives said.

WMAL was the seventh most-popular station overall among listeners 12 and older, up from 15th place in spring last year.

It tied for sixth place during the morning drive with another ABC station, adult pop music outlet WRQX-FM (107.3), up from 11th place a year earlier. During the afternoon drive, when WMAL airs Mr. Hannity's program, the station ranked fifth, up from a 12th place tie in spring last year.

WMAL was the top-rated station weekdays between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. It had been placed 12th a year earlier. During middays, WMAL carries Mr. Limbaugh's program and "The Dr. Laura Show," although the latter frequently was pre-empted for Sam Donaldson's syndicated program.

"I think the growth that we have seen across the dial indicates that people aren't interested in just hearing the day's headlines; they also want a more in-depth discussion of the issues," said Chris J. Berry, WMAL's president and general manager.

Mr. Berry joined WMAL in December and is credited with putting the station back on track after years of drifting. …