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Weekly AUDIO NEWS for April 25, 2001colored line

FCC/CEA Agreement on Conversion to DTV - Need a translation on that? Well, the Federal Communications Commission issued this week a status report on the transition to digital TV. The bottom line is it hasn't gone as fast or smoothly as first envisioned. The report acknowledges the expansion of sales of HDTV sets and the decline in their prices (though not by very much). However the big concerns are that more high definition programming is sorely needed to drive the transition. Other issues concern improving the interoperability of DTV and digital cable and agreement on copy protection that preserves fair-use and consumer home recording rights while protecting intellectual property rights. Gary Shapiro, CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, said "We are gratified that the DTV transition is gaining momentum... [and] we thank the FCC for its continuing leadership on DTV."

Bio-Tech Redesign of the Human Ear? - An NPR news feature on the projected redesign of the human body discussed two sci-fi-ish areas that researchers are focusing on: Making heavier-duty knee joints (since they are the first mechanical interface on our bodies to usually give out with wear and tear); and doubling the number of tiny hair cells of the inner ears plus making the pinnae (outer ears) swivelable so that more subtle sounds can be heard and followed more easily! Does that mean that those cutups who can wiggle their ears are the vanguard of a superior future race? Talk about the Ultimate Audio Tweak! Zow!

DVD Uber Alles in Europe - After just six years on the market (2003) the number of DVD households in Europe will have reached the level it took the VCR ten years to achieve. Nearly one-third of European households will then have DVD. In l999 alone 17 million DVD discs were sold in Europe. Music DVDs account for ten percent of the DVD market in Europe, a higher percentage both than in the U.S. and than ever achieved in VHS sales.

DVD Rental Expansion in U.S. - Video rental outlets across the U.S. are stocking up on DVDs and reducing their VHS orders greatly. The price gap in their cost is the main reason - the discs are cheaper, last longer, not as easily destroyed, and are more compact on the shelves. One dealer said rentals will have a DVD of a feature film pay for itself in 10 to 12 days whereas with VHS tape he'll be waiting 60 days at least. Some dealers are bypassing VHS on those movie titles they don't have to stock in massive quantities and they are ordering the DVD versions instead. Another dealer said that people owning both types of players have no problem with a movie being on DVD. And many movies are being released on both formats simultaneously now, or fairly close together. Surprisingly, few even mentioned appreciating the 100% better image and sound quality of DVD, plus the freedom from having to rewind, and the wear and tear on one's VHS player. (Many rental VHS tapes gum up the heads of home decks due to repeated playings - often across abrasive head assemblies.) Guess we have to accept that we persnickety audiophiles and videophiles are in the minority here...

- John Sunier

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