Hasta la vista.
WHFS-FM (99.1)—the local rock ‘n’ roll radio station that made its name in the 1970s with a free-form, free-flowing, playlist-free sound but later adopted a more mainstream style—flipped its format to Spanish-language music yesterday.
The move was not unexpected. WHFS—one of five stations in the Washington area owned by industry giant Infinity Broadcasting Corp.—has struggled to gain listeners for years, and rumors have persisted that it would move to take advantage of the region’s Hispanic population boom.
Infinity, a subsidiary of media monolith Viacom Inc., has renamed WHFS “El Zol,” an unorthodox spelling of the Spanish term “el sol,” which means “the sun.”
The station will play a blend of Caribbean and Central American dance music, including salsa, merengue and bachata, according to Infinity. Listeners are likely to hear mainstream acts such as Marc Anthony.
“We have made clear our desire to expand into this burgeoning market and believe this move marks an important step in our commitment to Spanish radio,” said Joel Hollander, Infinity’s president and chief operating officer.
Hispanic listeners make up about 10 percent of the Washington area’s radio market, according to the Arbitron Inc. ratings service.