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Weekly AUDIO NEWS for October 23, 2002

FTC Fines The Major Record Labels - The Attorney Generals of 47 of the states and the Federal Trade Commission are going to make the major record labels pay a $138 million fine for alleged price-fixing of CDs. This grew out of the majors - Universal, Warner Bros., BMG, Sony & EMI in order of market share - group decision in 2000 to stop giving budget stores such as Good Guys in-store goodies such as life-sized Britney Spears cut-outs. The very logical reason was that such stores were selling CDs as come ons to other electronic hardware they provided, and they were selling them for less than the $15-$20 of strictly CD shops such as Tower. This was all part of a scheme known as MAPs (Minimum Advertised Pricing), which incidently is also used in book publishing. The government said this practice violated anti-trust laws and ordered the labels to pay $62 million in cash to the governments of the 47 states where this took place, plus another $75.5 million worth of free CDs to be given to the schools and the handicapped. The cost of all this will probably be deducted from the performing artists' accounts as "special free goods," resulting in even lower royalty checks. More lay-offs and fewer signings of new artists can be expected from this. One observer said this is what happens when you ask the government for help. The majors may have over-reacted to Napster etc., and had a Jacob Marleyish attitude about royalties, but this is an illogical action by the Feds.

Airlines Adopt Dolby Headphone Technology - Dolby Laboratories is taking over the In-Flight Entertainment program management previously offered by Lake Technology of Australia, who invented Dolby Headphone - enabling headphone users to experience 5.1 surround for movies via private headphone listening. Among the airlines employing the new technology - replacing the 19th-century acoustic phones (hollow tubes coming out of the armrest) previously used - are United, Qantas, Singapore, Cathay Pacific and Lufthansa. Passengers can now enjoy the surround sound experience in the air, with a much more realistic portrayal of the spatial qualities of a movie soundtrack or music. All overseas 777 flights of American Airlines during November and December will offer a selection of Silverline Records' DVD-Audio catalog, including Astrud Gilberto, Bob Marley and the Wailers.

Panasonic Signs Agreement to Make DTV Accessible via Cable - Panasonic is the first major TV manufacturer to sign a POD-Host Interface License Agreement with the cable industry. The agreement allows Panasonic to develop, manufacture and market digital TVs able to directly receive HDTV with any digital programming via cable, including premium services, wherever available in the U.S. Such DTVs can be connected by cable subscribers without the need for a set top box. This is a major step forward for HDTV with the cable industry.

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