WAVA-FM (105.1) announced this week that its owner, Doubleday Broadcasting Co. Inc., has sold the Arlington-based station and two others in New York for $53 million.

The new owner is Emmis Broadcasting Corp., which is headed by Jeffrey H. Smulyan and Steven C. Crane and based in Indianapolis. Emmis currently owns stations in Indianapolis, Minneapolis, St. Louis and Los Angeles.

"We felt [the three stations] allowed us to enter two of the best markets in America," said Smulyan, who will be visiting WAVA for the first time today. The strength of WAVA, he said, "is that it is in the right format with good programming and good management." He said he couldn't "fathom" any changes at WAVA.

Alan Goodman, WAVA general manager and a vice president of Doubleday, said Emmis is known as a "young, people-oriented, promotionally aggressive company." WAVA reportedly sold for $17 million to $18 million.

Smulyan said the company's reputation as people-oriented meant that "we pride ourselves on a limited amount of turnover. We are strong believers that everyone has a say in our game plan. We think people should have a stake in the game plan and the future of the company." Examples of high-visibility promotions cited by Smulyan were an Indianapolis fireworks show attended by 350,000 people last year, and a coats-for-kids collection at Christmas. Meanwhile, at the Competition

WBMW-FM (106.7), another aggressive Top 40 station, has moved into new $1.6 million facilities on Main Street in Fairfax. For years the station had an unusual setup with its studios in one location and its business offices a few miles away in another.

"I had been in town for 15 years and had never seen an operation like that," said Peter Ferrara, who was named WBMW general manager last month. Ferrara oversaw the move from a 4,000-square-foot to a 7,500-square-foot facility, with $500,000 spent just for new studios.

The change in staff morale was immediate, said Ferrara. "The move created a sense of unity and an incredible feeling of togetherness. It said we are here to stay."

Now Ferrara is hoping the public will see the strengths of the station, which changed its call letters, its format, its station manager and its program and marketing directors. It also has been moving up in the ratings.

As a sign of the company's competitiveness, WBMW hired Marty Wall last week as its director of marketing and promotions. Wall helped design many of the successful high-visibility campaigns of WRQX-FM (107.3), where he worked for 2 1/2 years. The station has already retired its Bee logo; the new logo maintains the yellow, black and white colors with the slogan "playing the best new music first." Break for Elliott

At WRQX, Jim Elliott, who hosts the morning show with Scott Woodside, has taken a personal leave for a few weeks. Randy Lane, the program director, said Elliott had requested a leave from Feb. 14 to March 17 "to work out some personal problems I don't know the nature of. He has the backing of the company and he just felt he needed a month to work them out." New Programs

WCXR-FM (105.9) is starting three new programs Sunday that are designed to slice up the station's broad spectrum of rock from the 1960s through the 1970s. Starting at 9 p.m. will be "Classic Artist Hour," which will focus on one artist or group and be hosted by Bob Brooks; it kicks off with Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. At 10 p.m. Doug Gondek will bring on "Motor City Playback," a look at the Motown sound and its southern roots; the spotlight falls on Chuck Berry this week. Wrapping up the evening will be "Neo Classics" with Kevin Malvey, a mix of new music by rock legends and legends in the making. It debuts with Jackson Browne and Pete Townshend . . . WPFW-FM (89.3) is showcasing "Midnite Tracks" every night beginning tomorrow. It features uninterrupted jazz and comedy albums and starts with Wayne Shorter. A Home Remote

WWRC-AM (980) goes to Home Expo '86 at the D.C. Armory/Starplex this weekend, starting with a live broadcast of Bruce Williams' national talk show tonight at 7. Bill Hickok will take his show to the trade show tomorrow from noon to 4 p.m., followed by Felix Grant until 8 p.m. Specials

Tomorrow at 9 a.m. John Julius Norwich, a British historian, will be on "Desert Island Discs" on WETA-FM (90.9) . . . At 11 a.m. tomorrow Mia Cara, news director at WMDO-AM (1540), will interview Gen. Hugo Banzer Suarez, a former president of Bolivia, who will be in town for meetings with President Reagan . . . On Sunday at 11:30 p.m. Doris McMillon of WJLA-Channel 7 will be the guest host on "All the Way," the youth-oriented program from Pyramid Communications that's heard on WKYS-FM (93.9) . . . On Tuesday, WETA will carry a speech by Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Tex.) from the National Press Club at 1 p.m.