8-Night Satellite: XM's Radio Hanukkah

By Matt Sedensky
Associated Press
Wednesday, December 13, 2006

MIAMI -- Every year it's the same -- the relentless refrains of "Santa Baby" and "Silver Bells," those saccharine lyrics that seem to fill every radio frequency, not to mention every speaker 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 resident of Fort Lauderdale has an escape: She can tune in to Radio Hanukkah.

Though the potential audience is likely rather small, XM Satellite Radio's Hanukkah-themed station at XM108 is being touted as the first of its kind and one celebrated by the network's Jewish clientele, who've long known December's airwaves to be filled only with the holly-jolly, jingle-bell sounds of Christmas.

"It's 24 hours of Hanukkah! I'll be dancing the hora," 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 for the eight nights of the Festival of Lights, beginning Friday, not only with Hanukkah songs including "I Have a Little Dreidel," but also candle-lighting blessings and Jewish-themed specials with celebrities ranging from comedian Al Franken to sex therapist Dr. Ruth 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.

Regardless of the appeal to listeners, the Hanukkah radio efforts are little match for the airwaves' Christmas programming, which shows signs of gaining even more popularity this year.

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 CEO Hugh Panero and it's being produced by Allen Goldberg, who says the channel's introduction gives him "great satisfaction" after a lifetime of Christmas music on the radio.

Says Goldberg: "It's about time."

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