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, so I decided to put together a guide based on my experience and research.

I’ve used HomePod for almost three years. I listen mostly to Apple Music, along with some podcasts — and CBC news and radio. Probably 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, tested on my 2018 HomePod running HomePod Software Version 15.2 in December 2021.

Page (above)“Hey Siri …”Result
1“… play CBC Radio.”Siri says “Okay, here’s CBC Radio,” but plays random things, most frequently “The Debaters” podcast. I also got a song called “Broken” by Whitehorse; “Beaton’s Delight” by Ashley MacIsaac; and “Cheat Day (Live)” from Comedy Dump Truck by Dave Hemstad, among others. Very strange.
1“… play the latest news from CBC.”When I started this page, I got “The World This Hour” podcast. As of December 2021 Siri plays “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.”
2, 3“… play CBC Radio news.”CBC Radio One Vancouver. This is incorrect, obviously; but it’s not clear whether I got Vancouver because of my location.
2, 3“… play CBC Radio 1.”CBC Radio One Vancouver. Again, is Siri using my location to provide the Vancouver station?
2“… play CBC Radio Music.”CBC fixed this some time in 2021: CBC Music Vancouver now plays. Previously I got random episodes of “The Debaters” or “Afghanada;” once I got The Massey Lectures.

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.”

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.”

Has CBC abandoned HomePod support? Particularly with the introduction of the HomePod mini, this would seem to be an oversight. But I’ve discovered through trial and error that there are other commands that work. I also looked at the TuneIn pages for CBC stations and music. (TuneIn is the service that provides radio via HomePod.) 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.)

Latest Update: December 27, 2021

“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.This was working properly when I first posted this page in February 2021; by April 2021 it had become broken and is still playing Quirks and Quarks as of December 2021.
“… play CBC Music.”CBC Radio OneNot sure which city.
“… play CBC Music Vancouver.”SuccessFor 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. I will continue to monitor and update.
“… play CBC Music Halifax.”Success
“… play CBC Music Edmonton.”Success
“… play CBC Music Winnipeg.”Success
“… 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.
“… play CBC Radio One.”SuccessPlays CBC Radio One Toronto.
“… 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.”Success
“… 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.”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

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 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.