I agree - i wasn't saying the what makes it HD was the aspect ratio- what makes it HD is horizontal resolution.
Now, we don't know what the origirnal source is, but the native signal coming in is 1080i (unless my TV is getting it wrong). So what we're seeing is actually squeezed picture - so when you crop it you'll get the full signal. On SD channels it's the other way around - cropping a letterboxed 480i signal to full screen blows it up beyond its native scaling, and looks crappy.
I don't know why this channel seems to be unique when it comes to this - maybe they just haven't worked out the kinks yet.
I have my D* box scaling everything to 1080I. so it may be just the way you set the screen set in your options. My screen tells me it is set to 1080i, even if I am watching a 480I broadcast, on D*. My other option would be to import it as a 480I, 480P, or 1080I, and let the tv scale it up to 1080I, but, it seems to affect how I see the picture, and I am unable to zoom the picture properly.
I don't see a squeezed picture, but if I stretched it to fill the screen, then it would crop the sides. However, if I zoom it. the 16X9 picture fills out my screen without cropping or distorting the picture. This is a format option on the Sony TV, not on the D* box.