Published on November 14th, 2014 | by Alan Cross


A Note to American Listeners Who Used to Stream Canadian Radio: You’re Probably Wondered What the Hell Happened.

Once upon a time, anyone could access the online stream of a radio station from anywhere.  It didn’t matter if you were another country or another ocean away. A couple of clicks and you were able to access a real-time on-air stream of a faraway radio station.You can still do that, but it’s getting harder and hard.

For example, there’s a talk station in LA that I think is among the best in the world. Can I stream it through my computer. Nope. That’s because KFI AM 640 is owned by iHeartRadio (formerly Clearchannel) and they geo-block their streams. No access outside the United States.  Some thing if you want to try a service like Hulu. (Yes, yes, I know there are ways of spoofing an IP address to gain access, but let’s not go there right now. Oh, okay. What the hell.)

Americans, though, were free to access online streams of Canadian radio stations. I know this to be true because I get email from people across ‘Merica from people who listen to The Ongoing History of New Music.  I also know of a community stations that has hundreds of thousands of listeners every day from far beyond our borders.

Well, we now have a problem.

Due to a music licensing dispute initiated on the US side of the border, most Canadian broadcasters have geo-blocked the US.  We’ve been told that we–Canada–no longer have the copyright performance rights to be able to stream music to a US audience. So much for Canadian stations–and a LOT of Canadian music–from being heard in ‘Merica. This includes my Ongoing History of New Music, of course.

Canadian broadcasters would LOVE to keep supplying this content, but because of the complexities of this issue–music licensing is NEVER simple–we can’t. The costs for licensing Canadian signals into the US is…well, they’re huge. And they based on the number of listeners Canadian radio has in the US, it’s not cost effective.

And if we refuse to pay, guess what? The whole thing will turn into an ugly, expensive court case. Best just shut it down.

Sorry, America.  We’d love to keep supplying you with awesome audio content, but your music licensing people will have none of it.  Take it up with them.

Meanwhile, though, there is a way to access Ongoing History of New Music material in a different way.  Go here to see what I mean.  Spread the word, America!

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About the Author

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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31 Responses to A Note to American Listeners Who Used to Stream Canadian Radio: You’re Probably Wondered What the Hell Happened.

  1. amber says:

    I’m in Maryland. I can get 97.7 from St. Catherine’s here, but not 102 out of Toronto. What the hell.

  2. York says:

    I’m in PA and need my CFNY fix. At least for the time being, I can get CFOX.

  3. elaine says:

    what about for the uk? this has really just ruined my day.

  4. david says:

    I am a WNYer here is MD, this is terrible. What can we do. I grew up with CFNY

  5. juepucta says:

    Hola is also a very good VPN (even integrates with Chrome if you use it) and has no cap (as opposed to TunnelBear which is also great)

  6. I really wish global media companies would, you know, act globally.

  7. Shamima says:

    I am a Canadian in America. I grew up with CFNY and I am so sad to lose it. Alan, I will still seek out your show but Sundays just won’t be the same.

  8. Neil says:

    Total BS!!!!!!! Need to figure out a way to get CFNY!! Grew up w/ the edge in Bflo live in AZ now and it’s still where I get my new music/old favs. Spent many a days throwing the Aerobie around at the park listening to the ongoing history. HELP!!!
    Still dislike the Leafs tho!!!!!!!!

  9. Mike says:

    Absolute fascist bullshit. This is North America, not North Korea. I’m sure the money grubbing miscreants over at Clear Channel, er, iHeartRadio, are hard at work trying to figure out a way to block OTA broadcasts next. I live in the Buffalo area so at least I can usually get my favorite stations CFNY and Q107 the old fashioned way via broadcast. Even so, there are times when the only way to listen is over the Internet. I’m so mad I could spit. So much for all this crap about free trade.

    BTW – Thanks Alan, nice write up.

    • Paul T. says:

      I also am from Buffalo, and feel the exact same way as Mike. You would think in this day and age of the internet and digital content, accessibility would be enhanced, not diminished. All about the cash I guess…..very sad. As usual, Alan Cross does a nice job of explaining what is going on in the music industry…..keep up the great work Alan….I only wish I could stream it!

  10. Music lover says:

    Wow…I just read this after not being able to listen to my favorite Canadian Radio Station in Erie, PA. I like Fresh FM 103.1 out of London. Ugh…

    Thanks for the information Alan!

  11. Helldonkey says:

    Thanks for the heads up. I’ve been away for a few weeks and nearly lost it when I couldn’t listen to the Edge on my phone.

  12. Mike says:

    Use a split tunnel VPN configuration to bypass this country block.

  13. Shane says:

    This is such a bummer. We love listening to the radio stations in Canada because the ones by us are not good at all. Is there a way I can get information on who I can take this issue up with? Hopefully if they get enough complaints they can fix this issue. I am just lost on who I need to contact about this.

    • Alan Cross says:

      It’s the music collectives in the US who want Canadian stations to pay music licensing fees. They were going to ask for a LOT of money–more than anyone up here could afford based on the revenue we get from US listening.

  14. Doug says:

    I live in north east ohio, near the city known for a burning river. From nearly the PA border all along I-90 and south on I-271 on to I-71 all the way to a nearly imaginary border of the Great Lake Erie water shed. Listening in on normal radio FM 96.9, there are some dead zones and fuzzy areas but for the most part this station is tune-in-able. This may have shut me and others down online, but the open radio airwaves are another matter completely.

    • Pewpewkachu says:

      Same. I’m in Madison, OH, literay right across the lake from London, but for some reason, we lost reception to FM96, which was my fave station, awhile back. Probably because I’m in hicksville and our communication towers suck…but it just stopped coming In good one day. ;_;

  15. Steve J says:

    First the record companies, then the record stores, now the radio stations. Dumb down the masses, we know what’s best for them. Play the same songs from the same artists, regardless of the depth of their catalogue. Everyone will be a “one-hit wonder” that is easily categorized. Much simpler for the bean counters to sell their air time.

    Guess it’s back to the 1970’s. We had to really struggle to get a signal from a faraway station to hear something new. You had to plunk down your money for a concert by an unknown band. Search out and become friends with those that shared similar eclectic tastes.

    Maybe it’s not such a bad thing.

    I’ll still miss the ease of connecting to my youth by tuning in a more diverse Canadian station once in a while.

  16. Jayme Doran says:

    There is currently a simular issue/Music Licencing Dispute between Radio and Music in Australia at the present time where Australian Radio Stations are currently in dispute with the PPCA (the Australian equivalent to the RIAA in the US) over additional and higher fees (for music played on the web streams) after a Federal Court Ruling ruled in February 2013 that internet radio streaming is not part of normal broadcasting, This has led smaller market regional stations to switch off streaming altogether rather than geoblock international listeners (leaving the radio streams only accessible within Australia), Most Bigger Market Capital City Radio Stations Across Australia remain streaming online and will continue to do so. As you said Alan this issue isn’t just happening in Australia but this is happening right around the world with similar disputes in the US (Some US Radio Stations owned by Clear Channel/Emmis Communications and and several other large broadcasting companies turned off many or all of their Web streams back in 2001 because of a similar dispute and the same is happening now with Canada Radio being geoblocked in the US because of an music licening dispute).

    In the meantime there is a petition online regarding this issue and to return to online streaming on Australian Regional Radio Stations and to send a message out there (may I strongly encourage your readers to sign this online petitions and please spread the messages to your friends out there):

  17. Melinda says:

    I was wondering what happened. CFNY was the ONLY station in the 80s(here in Buffalo, NY)where there was any of MY music happening. And Alan Cross-you were there. So, sad that it can no longer be heard via stream, BUT luckily it comes in on my car radio. PS:Thank the universe that those morning idiots are gone!

  18. RG in Tampa says:

    I think Corus caved to easily. A year later and I’m still listening to a multitude of Canadian stations in the US including the Toronto indie upstart. If this was to seriously pursued on the US side, it would block thousands of streams which people listen to from all over the world. Being in the US, and using TuneIn Radio, it appears Corus is the only one who took action. I can listen to a multitude of high profile Toronto stations.

    Maybe Corus was manipulated by the other The Edge 102.1 out of Dallas; or maybe this is not a license cost issue but a cost issue for server use Corus has with their stream provider.

    • Alan Cross says:

      Nope. It was threat of having to pay millions in fees (in US dollars, too) after a court case (held in America) that Corus or any other Canadian broadcaster had no chance of winning. Blame SESAC, the US performing rights collective.

  19. David says:

    Thanks everyone who pointed out the Hola App. It’s works, feel great to be reconnected. !!!!

  20. Connie says:

    Thanks for the explanation. I’m using SurfEasy for my Tragically Hip fix but I’ll check out Hola. Now if only Rogers/Bell would give up subscription only access to TSN video…

  21. Mike Barnett says:

    I grew up in Toronto and now living in South Carolina. Have enjoyed listening to News Talk 1010 . Recently I discovered it was blocked in the US!!!! This is strictly a talk radio station and I fail to understand why they would be blocked. However I did discover a work around, I turned on the VPN in my iPhone settings and could listen to the station again.

  22. Joe Rich says:

    Thank you for explaining the U. S. created this problem. Here I was all upset by the Canadians. I miss Laurie Brown “The Signal”. I had even submitted a few letters to the broadcast which were read on the air.

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