Gulf war coverage boosts radio ratings for WBAL and WJHU

March 20, 1991|By Eric Siegel

Radio listeners hungry for news of the Persian Gulf war gave a strong ratings boost to the area's two primary outlets for news and information programming.

WBAL-AM (1090), the local news/talk station, registered a whopping 14.1 share of listeners 12 and over in the weekday morning drive time period, according to the winter Birch Radio ratings. The figure was nearly double the 7.4 drive time share the station received in the fall and far outstripped the numbers recorded by any other station in the critical 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. time slot that is radio's equivalent of prime time.

WJHU-FM, the local National Public Radio outlet, registered an impressive 2.4 audience share in drive time, when NPR's popular "Morning Edition" airs. That represented an increase of 33 percent from the 1.8 share the station registered in the fall -- good enough to put the the 10,000-watt public radio station at Johns Hopkins University in 11th place in the Baltimore radio market. Station manager Dennis Kita said the figures were the highest garnered by the station in its 4 1/2 -year history and quite probably the highest ever for any area public radio station.

Each share point represents approximately 3,600 listeners in an average quarter hour.

Though the most dramatic gains for the two stations were recorded in drive time, both stations also showed impressive gains in the midday and late-afternoon periods, when they carried live military briefings from Saudi Arabia and the Pentagon as well as call-in shows on the gulf war. WBAL, for example, went from a 5.4 to a 9.2 share in the weekday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. slot, while WJHU jumped from a 0.7 to a 1.6.

"We've been saying for quite some time, 'We're your source for NPR,' " Mr. Kita said. "The news was definitely what people wanted from radio and television during this period."

Jeff Beauchamp, vice president/station manager at WBAL, which went with what he described as "wall-to-wall" coverage during the war, said the numbers reflected the fact that listeners could "not only find out what was going on by turning on 'BAL, but they had an opportunity to discuss it" on the station's call-in shows.

Overall, WBAL finished third in the ratings with an 8.4 audience share, compared to 6.1 in the fall and 7.0 in winter 1990.

Urban contemporary station WXYV-FM (V-103) continued to hold on to first place in the market with a 10.8 share, followed by WIYY-FM (98 Rock) with a 10.0.

The more widely used Arbitron ratings are due next month.

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