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 August 2022.

All results below are from tests on my 2018 HomePod stereo pair running HomePod Software Version 15.6 on August 2, 2022 with a couple of additions on August 8 when some of the commands were noticed to have started working again.

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 random things, most frequently “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 August 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.”August 8, 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 August 2022, plays CBC Radio One Vancouver.

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 August 8, 2022: plays The World at Six podcast rather than the World This Hour as it used to, but this is progress.

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 update.
“… play CBC Music.”CBC Radio OnePlays CBC Radio One Toronto.
“… play CBC Music Vancouver.”Occasional SuccessAppears to be fixed as of August 8, 2022.

As of July-August 2022, I was getting Barbara Peatland: Canadian Composers Portraits. The station is still listed on the TuneIn Local Stations page.

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

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.

8 thoughts on “CBC, HomePod, and Siri

  1. Thank you Chris!
    Wow, this is the best guide/tutorial for random IT issues that I’ve ever seen.
    Extremely well presented + very helpful – it addresses all the questions that come up and answers them.
    Thank you Chris for being so cool and sharing this with us.
    All the best from Hamburg/GER

  2. I used my HomePod mini to listen to cbc rádio Ottawa for the past year or so, occasionally I would get some other cbc radio station but since June 28 or 29 2022 when you say “ play cbc radio one” you no longer get cbc rádio Ottawa instead you get a random cbc station usually Toronto.

    Anyone knows how to get cbc Ottawa on HomePod?

    • As noted, “Hey Siri, play CBC Radio One Ottawa” has not been working for a while, at least for me; although this could have something to do with location — I’m in Vancouver.

  3. Hi – just found this and great. I too had problems with CBC Music Vancouver in 2021… which resolved itself via Tunein… but alas this past week or so, CBC Music Vancouver is no longer listed as available on Tunein and I did get a reply from TuneIn they were looking at it… just wondering if you had looked into this this month/year?

    • Hi Joe, I re-tested everything and updated the page just a few days ago. CBC Music Vancouver is still listed on TuneIn’s CBC Page, but I just noticed that if you select it, there’s a message “This station is not currently available.” So I’m still getting the error from Siri as noted (“Sorry, there was a problem with Apple Music”).

  4. Yep! This has all happened before – like a year ago – but they all seemed to correct it thought this time seems to hanging around. To me it feels like a licensing issue and just someone has forgotten to update things or such. I did email TuneIn and got this response:

    “Thank you for contacting TuneIn Support.

    We wish to inform you that, we have reached out to the broadcaster CBC, for a new stream that can help in providing a better listening experience. Meanwhile, your cooperation and understanding are highly appreciated. We will get back as soon as we have any further updates on this.

    It’s been a pleasure to assist you. “

    • My assumption has been that it’s someone just not putting in the work in mapping Siri commands to stations. But I have no evidence to back this up. It’s not clear who’s responsible: CBC, TuneIn, and/or Apple?

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