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, -- 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

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts