Audio News for April 19, 2016

FCC Proposal Re: TV Set-Top Boxes – The FCC has approved a proposal letting consumers swap their pricey cable boxes for cheaper devices and apps, to boost competition in the $20 billin TV set-top box market while delivering a blow to the major cable companies. Customers can obtain video services from providers such as Apple, Tivo and Alphabet Inc. instead of the cable and satellite providers. The FCC is allowing cable and satellite providers a 60-day comment period. If implemented, the industry would then have two years to comply. The cable and TV companies could lose billions of dollars in rental fees for set-top boxes. A counsel for Dish Network said “It is really not clear to us that any new regulation is needed to encourage innovation and in fact would actually hinder it.”  They claim the video marketplace is already evolving with more customers replacing pay TV services with streaming Internet video. The FCC said 99% of American customers now much get their boxes from their cable or satellite providers and pay on average $231 a year to lease the devices. Rental fees for set-top boxes have risen 185% since 1994. The proposed rule would also require the cable and satellite providers to give alternative device makers access to their programming – rather than locking up the market with current restrictions.

Loudness Petition Has 3000 Supporters So Far –  The streaming loudness petition, “Bring Peace to the Loudness War,” has reached 3000 signatures in just 12 days. Here is the petition: Its goal is to encourage better sound quality and consistent loudness in music reproduction via audio streaming. A spokesman said, “We advocate loudness normalization with a sensible target, with enough headroom to permit recordings to be reproduced as the artists intended, without the streaming service adding unnecessary limiting or processing.”  Artists, musicians, producers, engineers and consumers all want to preserve performers’ intent and permit dynamic music recordings to complete on an even keel with more compressed recordings, without damaging the sound of the recording. Another supporter said, “I want dynamics back in my music… Music deserves to be as expressive as possible, and dynamics are an essential ingredient in that expression…”

PIAS Acquires Classical Label Harmonia mundi – The European independent PIAS – who have many pop, rock, jazz and world music performers in their stable but lack any classical – has acquired the historic classical label Harmonia mundi. French-based HM was founded in 1958 by the late Bernard Coutaz and has over 100 workers for its label all over the world. Widow Eva Coutaz has been in charge of HM, which like many in the record business has struggled with falling sales recently. She says PIAS (which stands for Play It Again Sam!) is “the right home for our legacy.” The PIAS co-founder says that HM doesn’t cannibalize any of their existing roster and adds another dimension to the company. “Together we are stronger, so therefore we are more powerful and can sell more records.”

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