CBC, HomePod, and Siri

There doesn’t seem to be a lot of information available on how to access CBC content using Siri on HomePod and HomePod mini, so I decided to put together a guide based on my experience and research. Last updated September 2022.

All results below are from tests on my 2018 HomePod stereo pair running HomePod Software Version 15.6 on September 2, 2022.

I bought my first HomePod in June 2018. I listen mostly to Apple Music, along with some podcasts — and CBC news and radio. More than half of my interaction with HomePod is via voice.

CBC has several pages addressing HomePod support:

  1. How can I use Siri to play CBC? (last updated circa mid- 2020)
  2. Do I have to enable anything on my Apple HomePod? (last updated circa 2019)
  3. How to play CBC Radio on your new smart speaker (December 2018)

Here’s a review of the commands provided on those pages, and their current status.

Page (above)“Hey Siri …”Result
1“… play CBC Radio.”Siri says “CBC Radio now playing” or “Okay. Here’s CBC Radio,” but plays various other things. As of September 2022 it seems to be random tracks on Apple Music; in the past I often got “The Debaters” podcast. I’ve also got a song called “Broken” by Whitehorse; “Beaton’s Delight” by Ashley MacIsaac; a Grapes of Wrath tune “Dream (About You),” “Cheat Day (Live)” from Comedy Dump Truck by Dave Hemstad, among many others. Very strange.
1“… play the latest news from CBC.”As of September 2022, plays “The Podium” podcast.

When I started this page, I got “The World This Hour” podcast. As of December 2021 Siri played “Sermons” from the Central Bible Church; trying to go to the item in Apple Music on macOS gave me the message “The item you’ve requested is not currently available in Apple Music in Canada.” In July 2022 I got the “Writers and Company” podcast.
2, 3“… play CBC Radio news.”September 2022: plays “Because News” podcast. Previously played the “Quirks and Quarks” podcast.
2, 3“… play CBC Radio 1.”CBC Radio One Vancouver. Not sure whether this is because my location is being referenced.
2“… play CBC Radio Music.”As of September 2022, after months of playing CBC Radio One Vancouver, now plays CBC Music Vancouver! Again perhaps it’s using my location.

CBC had fixed this some time in 2021. Previously I got random episodes of “The Debaters” or “Afghanada;” once I got The Massey Lectures, and earlier in 2022, “The Debaters.”

On the 2018 page (3), there is a video with Piya Chattopadhyay demonstrating the “play CBC Radio One” command. The video ends by promoting a url, cbc.ca/smart, which as of this writing only has instructions for Amazon Alexa.

Page (2) states “We will continue to work on our Apple implementation of the voice experience and will announce late in 2019 when it’s ready to go. Stay tuned!” Page (3) says “New experiences are coming in 2019.”

Communications with CBC

I wrote to CBC in June 2019, and received the following from CBC Audience Services:

“CBC Radio One is limited to the Ottawa feed on HomePod.  CBC Music is not officially supported on HomePod either. All a work in progress and changing constantly. We are continually working on improvements and upgrades on all digital platforms.”

There is a lot more CBC content Siri on HomePod can access besides Ottawa Radio One (see below). But since that message, CBC had stopped responding to emails or tweets on the subject until, quite unexpectedly, an email arrived July 11, 2022, which stated in part:

“This is a known issue which we are currently investigating. Please read the following CBC Help Centre article referring to this issue: NEW Issues connection to CBC Radio networks on internet devices [apparently updated around the end of June 2022]. We do apologize for any inconvenience.”

It’s not clear whether by “this” they were referring to issues with HomePod in general — every time I email or tweet CBC I include a link to this page, but have no way of knowing whether they’ve looked at it — or some specific issue, perhaps the recent problem with CBC Music Vancouver.

It’s also unclear who has responsibility for ensuring that Siri can be used to access CBC content. The page sent to me above says to “reach out to the software support team for your device or service and ask them to contact CBC directly.” But is this TuneIn (the service that provides radio to Apple Music and hence via HomePod)? Apple? I replied with all of these questions, but in a response sent July 19, 2022, only got back “As the article link from our help centre says:” with the first and third paragraphs of the above page quoted, and “That’s all I can give you for the moment.”

Siri Command Reference

Particularly with the introduction of the HomePod mini, these issues would seem to be a significant oversight on the part of CBC. But in the meantime, I’ve discovered through trial and error that there are other commands that work, over and above the few documented on the original web pages from 2018-20. I also looked at the TuneIn pages for CBC stations and music. The following is my analysis of what plays based on various commands. (I have omitted podcasts, since they can be asked for directly; some generic commands like “play the CBC news” happen to redirect to podcasts.)

“Hey Siri…”ResultNotes
“… switch to CBC news.”“From now on, I’ll play the news from CBC.” (And plays the latest “World This Hour” podcast.)Subsequent requests to “… play the news” (without specifying a source) will play CBC news. Also, if you have news as part of your update (“… what’s my update?”) it will play CBC.
“… play the CBC news.”Quirks & Quarks podcast.Appears to be fixed as of summer 2022. In September it played the latest World Report podcast. A month earlier it was playing The World at Six podcast rather than the World This Hour as it used to.

This was working properly when I first posted this page in February 2021; by April 2021 it had become broken and was still playing Quirks and Quarks until the above updates.
“… play CBC Music.”CBC Radio OnePlays CBC Radio One Vancouver as of August 2022. In August it was playing CBC Radio One Toronto. Progress, of a sort (again, location location location)?
“… play CBC Music Vancouver.”SuccessAppears to have been fixed as of August 8, 2022.

As of July-August 2022, I was getting Barbara Peatland: Canadian Composers Portraits. Starting around July 2022, resulted in “Now play CBC Music Vancouver, Provided by TuneIn. … Sorry, there was a problem with Apple Music.”

For a few weeks in May 2021, this no longer worked as CBC Music Vancouver disappeared from TuneIn. I tweeted at CBC and TuneIn and only TuneIn responded. They wrote, “CBC Music Vancouver have decided to restrict their stream within mobile device users only. This means CBC Music Vancouver can’t be accessed through smart speakers or receiver such as HomePod.” However, a week or so later the station had been restored to TuneIn. But this makes me wonder whether there might be a movement at CBC to try to force people to use their Listen app.
“… play CBC Music Halifax.”SuccessFixed some time between July and August 2022; for a time I got back, “Now playing CBC Music Halifax … Sorry, there was a problem with Apple Music.”
“… play CBC Music Edmonton.”SuccessFixed some time between July and August 2022; for a time I got back, “Now playing CBC Music Edmonton … Sorry, there was a problem with Apple Music.”
“… play CBC Music Winnipeg.”SuccessFixed some time between July and August 2022; for a time I got back, “Now playing CBC Music Winnipeg … Sorry, there was a problem with Apple Music.”
“… play CBC Music Toronto.”Norma Beecroft: Improvvisazioni Concertanti No. 1, From Dreams of Brass, Collage ’76, Jeu II, Accordion Play (Canadian Composers Portraits) [link]Interesting error. It’s listed on the TuneIn Local Stations page, although for some reasons with the old 1970s logo rather than the CBC Radio One logo.
“… play CBC Radio One.”SuccessUsed to play CBC Radio One Toronto; now plays CBC Radio One Vancouver for me, and I wonder if my location figures into this.
“… play CBC Radio One Vancouver.”Success
“… play CBC Radio One St. John’s.”SuccessSt. John’s, Newfoundland
“… play CBC Radio One Saint John.”SuccessSaint John, New Brunswick
“… play CBC Radio One Kelowna.”Success
“… play CBC Radio One Toronto.”SuccessStation artwork is, for some reason, the 1974–1992 CBC logo rather than the CBC Radio One logo that all the other stations use.

“… play CBC Radio One London.”Success
“… play CBC Radio One Kitchener-Waterloo.”Success
“… play CBC Radio One Halifax.”Success
“… play CBC Radio One Moncton.”Success
“… play CBC Radio One Edmonton.”Success
“… play CBC Radio One Prince George.”Success
“… play CBC Radio One Ottawa.”“I couldn’t find CBC Radio One Ottawa in your Apple Music library. You can ask me to play a radio station, or ask for your music on a different app.”This has stopped working since I started this page.
“… play CBC Radio One Winnipeg.”Success
“… play CBC Radio One Sudbury.”Success
“… play CBC Radio One Montreal.”Success
“… play CBC Radio One Victoria.”Success
“… play CBC Radio One Charlottetown.”Success
“… play CBC Radio One Regina.”Success
“… play CBC Radio One Fredericton.”Success
“… play CBC Radio One Thunder Bay.”Success
“… play CBC Radio One Goose Bay”SuccessIn September 2022, I checked TuneIn’s Stream CBC page for the first time in a few months, and discovered this station had been added. Bonus!
“… play CBC Radio One Barrie”“I couldn’t find CBC Radio One Barrie in your Apple Music library.”As for Goose Bay above, discovered this had been added. However, Siri isn’t able to find it.
“… play CBC Radio One Kingston”“I couldn’t find CBC Radio One Kingston in your Apple Music library.”Again, new to TuneIn some time in 2022 but can’t be accessed by Siri on HomePod.

There’s clearly some room for improvement here. CBC should at least fix the incorrect mappings. It’s unclear to me what the relationship is between an entity like CBC and Apple, but there’s a blurb and link on Apple’s Siri for Developers page for integration of a streaming service with HomePod (I don’t currently have an Apple Developer account, so I can’t view the page).

Please let me know if you have any updates or other information, and I will try to keep this page current.

Three Tracks: 2020

Three pieces that I kept coming back to in the (first) year of Covid-19.

Nine Inch Nails: The Worriment Waltz

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross said “the current [pandemic] crisis was the reason they completed the two records in the first place, ‘as a means of staying somewhat sane'” (Pitchfork). While my neighbourhood was boarded up in the spring, this track in particular seemed the pitch-perfect soundtrack; but both albums — Ghosts V: Together and Ghosts VI: Locusts — helped get me through that initial strange, disconnected time.

Apple Music · Spotify

Kelly Lee Owens: On

A Hopkins– like perfect balance of melody and electronics; her second appearance on these lists of mine (see 2017). The outtro, hinted at through the verses, is crowning. “And so / Let go of the hope / That it could / That it could be.”

Apple Music · Spotify

Phoebe Bridgers: Garden Song

That processed guitar sound on the classic changes! “No, I’m not afraid of hard work / I get everything I want / I have everything I wanted.”

Apple Music · Spotify

Other

No real honourable mentions this year; I am starting an equivalent “Three Albums” list that mostly takes care of that. My Jazz list also moves there this year.

See also 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019.

Three Albums: 2020

I’ve posted a “Three Tracks” list for a number of years (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020), but have always run into a bit of a problem: single cuts versus album tracks. A lot of the listening I’ve done has always been album-oriented; this has only increased for me in the era of Apple Music and HomePod (“Hey Siri, play the latest album by …”). So this list represents full-length works from which I have found it difficult to pull a single song — though I’ve done so for the videos below, largely randomly.

Fiona Apple: Fetch the Bolt Cutters

A masterpiece. The album that convinced me that I needed a separate list for complete works, not just songs, every year.

Apple Music · Spotify

Waxahatchee: Saint Cloud

A pleasure from beginning to end, over and over.

Apple Music · Spotify

Nine Inch Nails: Ghosts V: Together and Ghosts VI: Locusts

These two ambient albums got me through the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Apple Music (Ghosts V, Ghosts VI) · Spotify (Ghosts V, Ghosts VI)

Honourable Mention

Live Forever, Bartees Strange (Apple Music, Spotify) — must get back to this one; it’s really struck me the few times I’ve put it on.

Jazz

I’m not as much of a knowledgeable or dedicated or focused jazz fan, though I listen to it a lot; here are a few albums I played many times in 2020.

SOURCE, Nubya Garcia (Apple Music, Spotify); Suite: April 2020, Brad Mehldau (Apple Music, Spotify); Blue Note Re:imagined, Various Artists (Apple Music, Spotify); Gogo Penguin, Gogo Penguin (Apple Music, Spotify); Rythme De Passage, Emie R. Roussel Trio (Apple Music, Spotify); Life Goes On, Carla Bley, Andy Shepperd & Steve Swallow (Apple Music, Spotify); Essais, Volume 4, Pierre de Bethmann Trio (Apple Music, Spotify); Dance, Tingvall Trio (Apple Music, Spotify).

Three Tracks: 2019

Three tracks that satisfied my ears in 2019.

Sharon Van Etten, “No One’s Easy to Love”

True. “Don’t look down, my dear, don’t be surprised […] Don’t look back, my dear, just say you tried.” Bonus points for striking perhaps the most musically interesting note of the year: the second note of the second “love” in each chorus’s “No one’s easy to love.”

Apple Music · Spotify

Vampire Weekend, “This Life”

Song of the summer. “I’ve been cheating through this life and all its suffering / Oh Christ, am I good for nothing?”

Apple Music · Spotify

Patrick Watson, “Here Comes the River”

Pathos for a difficult year. “Well Mary kept sewing / Holding on to her TV / Even if the water was rising past her knees.” I believe this is the only one of my yearly “Fall” playlists (all songs I’ve gathered in the last few years are here on Apple Music) to make it to this list so far.

Apple Music · Spotify

Honourable Mentions

“Terminal Paradise” (Apple Music, Spotify), or pretty much anything from either of their two great 2020 albums, by Big Thief. “Venice Bitch” (Apple Music, Spotify) Lana Del Rey. “Sisyphus” (Apple Music, Spotify), Andrew Bird.

Jazz

I listen to a lot of jazz, but I’m not knowledgeable enough and my listening is not sufficiently comprehensive to produce any kind of narrowed best-of list. I put some of my favourite albums into a Recent Jazz playlist on Apple Music.

See also 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018.

Three Tracks: 2018

Three tracks that defined my year in 2018.

Low, “Always Trying to Work It Out”

Hard to pick a track from my favourite album of the year, but this is a standout. “Everybody says that the war is over / It isn’t something you forget so easily.” Can’t wait to see them live in March. I hadn’t seen the video until I put together this post.

Jon Hopkins, “Singularity”

The wait was worth it. Moves in a melodic/rhythmic way that seems unique to him. Great live, as well.

Lucy Dacus, “Night Shift”

Women seem to be making the best rock music these days. “Hooo-oo, woo-oo-oo oooo-oo, whooo-ao-oo waaa-yyy-yooo, ya-aa-yoo i-yoooo; oo-ii-yaaaaaaaa, i-yaaaaaaa, aa, aa i-yaaa-yoo, oo-waaa-aa-aa.” Best lyric of the year, makes me tear up every time I hear her wail this.

Honourable Mentions

Snail Mail, Stick (“What is it about them / They stick around”); Thom Yorke, Suspirium (“Is the darkness ours to take? Bathed in lightness, Bathed in heat”).

See also 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017.

Three Tracks: 2017

Three tracks that defined my year in 2017.

Big Thief, “Shark Smile”

Ah, the sound of this track makes me move, makes me tear up. This is my music. “And she said woo, baby, take me. And I said woo, baby, take me too.”

The live performance on KCRW is worth checking out, though the mix is poor.

Kelly Lee Owens, “8”

Epiphany jetting up into the sunrise south out of Whitehorse. “See it, oh.” The video below is the whole album, which is great; the individual track is available on Bandcamp.

Aldous Harding, “Horizon”

“Say again, this place.”

The live performance on KEXP is worth watching.

Honourable Mentions

I didn’t realize until I was done choosing that they’re all female artists. Some of the other candidates were perhaps too obvious, and not because they’re mostly men: “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness” by the National; “I Ain’t the One” by Spoon (saw an incredible live performance of this song in September at Malkin Bowl); “Soak” by Zola Jesus; “HUMBLE.” by Kendrick Lamar.

See also 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018.

Three Tracks: 2016

Three tracks that defined my year in 2016 (I’m late again this year):

David Bowie, “Lazarus”

A brilliant swan song. “This way or no way / You know I’ll be free / Just like that bluebird / Now, ain’t that just like me?”

Radiohead, “Present Tense”

Another year, another breakup. It’s difficult to pick just one song from A Moon Shaped Pool. I wrote back when In Rainbows was released that I couldn’t think of another band which, ten years after its acknowledged masterpiece (OK Computer), came out with something arguably comparable. Well, here we are another nine years later and they’ve done it again. “This dance is like a weapon of self-defence against the present tense.”

Daughter, “How”

I struggled to choose a third song for 2016. But this one struck me initially and powerfully in concert.

See also 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018.

Three Tracks: 2015

Better late that even later. Three tracks that defined my year in 2015:

Beach House, “Space Song”

It was a year of transition. At the tail end of summer, walking and biking Cannon Beach in Oregon, I felt that five years after my divorce everything had finally come together and I had myself back fully, even though I’d just realized it. “Fall back into place.” A revelation live at their April 2016 concert in Vancouver.

Sufjan Stevens, “Blue Bucket of Gold”

Driving the beautiful Highway 26 from Portland to the ocean, rain alternating with sun. One relationship over, and another one—I could almost feel it—just around the corner. “Raise your right hand / Tell me you want me in your life / Or raise your red flag / Just when I want you in my life.” Another great concert in June 2015 at the Orpheum.

Sjowgren, “Seventeen”

I don’t include enough fun songs in these lists. “If you want a second to breathe / I’ll give you all of my love / I’ll give you all that you need, ah.”

See also 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018.