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Weekly AUDIO NEWS for April 4, 2001colored line

Let's take a week off from Napster news this time around - probably few readers have found much worthwhile classical or jazz material to download from them anyway...

Audio Sales Up - There was a 3% growth of audio manufacturer-to-dealer sales in January according to the Consumer Electronics Association. Complete audio system and portables posted large gains, for a total of $503 million. Home-theater-in-a-box had $50 million sales and headset portable CD players also had major growth. CD-R hardware is also thriving, leading CEA President Gary Shapiro to state that he wants his organization to work to support the growth of CD-R and other digital audio recording while balancing intellectual property rights, home recording rights and fair use rights.

Britain Way Ahead of U.S. In Digital Radio - DAB is practically a household word in the UK now, with over 40 stations broadcasting digitally in the London area alone. The BBC National and Digital One are both digital and there are five additional multiplexes for local radio in England, with additional stations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. DAB is joining the ranks of CD and DVD in providing interference-free sound, leaving 80 years-old AM and 55-years-old FM in the dust.

Local on-demand audio is being added to the digital broadcasts as the result of a partnership between multiplex operator MXR and a California firm, Command Audio. The technology enables listeners to personalize their radio programming, selecting certain programs to listen to any time they want. They will be provided with an Electronic Program Guide, allowing selection of personalized programming that suits their particular interests and lifestyles, including local news and special services. Broadcasters can make better use of their bandwidth, appeal to a wider range of listeners in a more targeted manner, and on the commercial channels create new advertising and revenue opportunities.

Satellite Radio Up and Running - The way most U.S. listeners will first be accessing digital broadcasting is via one of the two new digital satellite radio operations planned to get underway in a few months. Sirius and XM Radio are targeting primarily mobile users and will require special receivers installed in autos. They have spent over $1 billion getting ready to serve their users, who will be paying around $10 a month for the noise-free, multi-path free, 100-channel service. Some of the channels will be commercial free and others will have less than half the commercials of most commercial radio today. The first satellite for XM Radio was successfully launched from a platform in the Pacific last month, with a second satellite scheduled to go up in May. Difficult signal areas in larger cities will be covered with ground antennas - 1300 of them in the case of XM Radio. Auto receivers for both services are already on retail shelves. Analysts expect about 8% of cars in the U.S. to be receiving one or the other service by 2004.

- John Sunier

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