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Weekly AUDIO NEWS for October 16, 2002

Recorded Music Sales Drop - The International Federation of the Phonographics Industry in London has reported that global sales of recorded music fell 9.2 percent in the first half of this year compared with last year. 11.2 percent fewer CDs, vinyl and cassettes were sold in the period. Japanese sales were down more than twice that in the U.S. Factors involved were felt to be weak economies worldwide, the widespread availability of free music on the Net, and competition from other leisure-time electronic products.

FCC Finally Mandates Digital Radio - Years behind Britain and Canada, the U.S. finally has an official technology for digital terrestrial radio broadcasting, which has been hassled over for more than a decade now. The FCC voted unanimously to adopt the "in-band" DAB technology created by iBiquity Digital Corp. This allows both AM and FM stations to immediately begin broadcasting digital signals in the same bandwidth space as their current analog frequency, and gives them an edge in competing with the other technologies of this digital age. The transmission of data along with the music and news will let listeners see information on the music they are hearing, among other advantages. FM sonics will be upgraded to the level of CDs and even AM stations will improve to about the quality of FM stations today.

The conversion to DAB won't happen overnite however. The first digital radios, expected to be at least $100 more than analog receivers, will be shown at the January CES in Las Vegas. Another hurdle is the cost to stations of converting to what will be brand-named HD Radio. Not nearly as expensive as telecasters are facing with HDTV, the move to digital could cost a typical station anywhere from $30,000 to $200,000. And as is happening with HDTV, there's a chicken-and-egg situation with stations not having an incentive to upgrade until they know they have a digital-ready audience and the audience having no incentive to buy HD radios until they know their favorite stations are going to be offering the new technology.

Warner Bros. Adding THX to 250 Screens - Warner Bros. International Theatres has committed to installing 250 THX-certified screens throughout the world over the next three years, both in newly-built theaters and upgrades of existing facilities.

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