Defining HD

It's a truism in journalism: Writers often learn as much from readers as from research. An example of this phenomenon took place after the publication of "Going Public," a June 14 column about Colorado Public Radio, and complaints by former board member Frances Koncilja about the direction in which the organization plans to head.

Specifically, an e-mailer told me that referring to HD radio as "high-definition radio" is incorrect, because the letters "HD" don't stand for those words -- and I discovered that he was right.

I could find no reference to "high definition" on the official HD radio site, HDradio.com -- although typing in "hd radio" and "high definition" to Google does bring up the page. But while numerous publications, including the New York Times, have used "HD" and "high definition" interchangeably, they shouldn't have. A paragraph in this MSNBC article offers a succinct explanation:

Interestingly, the “HD” in HD Radio actually has no meaning. It has come to stand for “High-Definition” in common usage, with an easy reference to High-Definition Television, or HDTV. Although HD Radio uses “Hybrid Digital” technology, according to iBiquity, it does not stand for Hybrid Digital, either.

Why, then, did the folks at iBiquity Digital Corp., which developed the format's technology, choose to dub it HD Radio? In all likelihood, they wanted people to associate it with high-definition television, a technology a large percentage of the public embraces and/or covets, in order to dovetail off another medium's popularity. (I leave it to you to decide how kosher this approach is.) I'm sorry I unwittingly helped perpetuate the confusion -- and I'm grateful to the reader who set me straight. -- Michael Roberts

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