New Zealand’s Radio Sport Demands TuneIn Removes its Streams, Suggests Using Inaccessible App Instead
The ICC Cricket World Cup is nearly here, and like the other estimated two billion people around the world expected to follow the games, I can’t wait.
Like many other cricket fans who are blind, I prefer to follow the radio commentaries. Understandably given the medium, television gives far less description of each ball.
Like many people whose iPhone is their constant companion, I’m planning to follow all the action on my iPhone. As a friend observed recently, the iPhone has become the transistor radio of our time. The only portable terrestrial radio I own now is in our emergency kit, in case we have an earthquake.
Until recently, I’ve listened to what cricket coverage there is on New Zealand’s sports network, Radio Sport, via the TuneIn Radio iOS app.
I’ve done this for two reasons. First, TuneIn is accessible with VoiceOver, the built-in screen reader that makes iOS products useable by blind people like me.
Second, it’s the app that I use most of the time to listen to any radio station on my phone. In that sense, TuneIn is like a modern software version of the transistor radio of old. Imagine how frustrating it would have been if we’d have had to carry a different transistor radio for every station, or network, we wanted to hear. So having all the stations I like from around the world on TuneIn is convenient.
Third, the apps provided by the company operating Radio Sport, now known as NZME, all have significant accessibility issues. I want to give credit where it’s due and point out that the NZ Herald app, while not perfect, is quite useable. Presumably a different development team was used to create this app before the merger that has created NZME. The apps I am referring to here are those developed by what was known as The Radio Network.
Many app developers now understand that making their apps accessible is straightforward, and it’s the right thing to do. One would hope that would be sufficient motivation. But even if it isn’t, NZME is offering a public service and so is legally obliged to ensure their apps are accessible, given that doing so does not create undue hardship for them.
The fact that the NZME apps are so difficult has been a minor annoyance to me at best until recently. Any NewsTalk ZB content I want to catch up with, I grab via their podcasts using the highly accessible Downcast app. And the live streams have been available on TuneIn.
All that changed very recently, when NZME removed Radio Sport from the TuneIn service. The problem with this is that they are recommending people instead use the New Zealand version of iHeart Radio. Like many other blind people, I hadn’t bothered with this app before, given the radio division of NZME’s appalling track record for mobile accessibility. However, wanting to be prepared for the cricket feast just ahead, I downloaded the New Zealand version of the iHeart Radio app.
To use a cricketing analogy, the app bowled me for a first-ball duck. iHeart Radio requires you to accept its terms and conditions. As a VoiceOver user, you can’t. It apparently used to be accessible, but a version released in December introduced this critical regression. The checkbox is not accessible to VoiceOver at all, not even if you carefully explore the screen inch by inch rather than using the more common flicking method. In short, you’re totally locked out of this app unless you can find a sighted person who can accept the terms and conditions for you. Not everyone has such a person readily available.
Because I was determined to try the app before completing this post, and with no working eyes around, I had to make a video call on my computer, hold my iPhone up to the computer’s camera, and get guidance about precisely where to tap on the screen to accept the terms and conditions. It wasn’t easy, because even on my iPhone 6 Plus, the checkbox is tiny.
It took several attempts and quite a few minutes, but using this method, I was finally able to get the checkbox checked.
Having at last gained entry to the app, I must say it’s actually the best of all the NZME radio apps. It is far from perfect, but a skilled iOS user should be able to find Radio Sport and Radio Sport Extra. It would be so easy to make it better, however.
So why has Radio Sport disappeared from TuneIn, and is there any significance about it disappearing from the service just days before one of the biggest sporting events in the world? Based on replies blind people who’ve written to NZME have received, it appears NZME has made a commercial decision to remove Radio Sport from the TuneIn app. One reply I was forwarded said that TuneIn didn’t have permission to use the stream.
Cricket rights are big business, so I can understand why NZME may have been under some pressure to take Radio Sport out of the TuneIn app. I think this is the most likely cause, because as I write this, newsTalk ZB, also an NZME network, is still active in the TuneIn directory, so there appears not to have been a wholesale removal of all NZME streams.
I further note that the ABC stream in Australia, when they carry cricket, was removed from TuneIn some time ago.
While I appreciate that TuneIn is by far the largest of these radio stream aggregators, it is not the only one. I also use, and very much like, another accessible app. I’m not going to name it in case the powers that be go after it too, but Radio Sport is still alive and well in this app, whose directory is also available on the blindness-specific device, the Victor Reader Stream.
I think there are some important questions to be asked about the appropriateness of content providers being able to demand removal from stream aggregators such as TuneIn. This issue is similar to some news providers asking to be removed from Google News. These are public streams, available on the public Internet. If companies wish to engage in the foolhardy practice of geo-blocking, then the stream can be made not to play in certain geographical locations. But demanding a stream be removed entirely seems to be heavy-handed and counterproductive.
With all that said, and given the dismal state of accessibility in all NZME radio apps, I’m now going to tell you, how, at least for now, you can add Radio Sport back into TuneIn manually. It’s a public stream and you should be entitled to access it how you want.
In these instructions, I’m going to use their 32KBPS AAC stream, which is easier on your mobile data. These instructions apply to the iOS app, and assume you have VoiceOver running.
1. Launch the TuneIn Radio app.
2. If you already had Radio Sport added to your Profile, you’ll now see that it shows up as “not supported’, so delete this entry from your profile by swiping down to “delete” when Radio Sport has focus, and then double-tapping.
3. Back out of your list of stations, but remain in your Profile.
4. Double-tap the button in about the centre of your screen labelled “Add New Custom URL”.
5. Type or paste the following into the search field:
6. Double-Tap “Search”.
TuneIn will report it hasn’t found any matches, and give you the opportunity to open the custom URL.
7. When you open the URL, the stream will begin to play. You can then choose “Follow” from the “Now Playing” screen, and give the stream a name. It is then saved, so you can easily access it in future.
Perhaps the blind community in New Zealand has been more laid back than it should have been about the inaccessibility of NZME radio apps, because there have always been other places to go. But if they are now trying to drive us to these apps, they have a responsibility to ensure access for everyone, just as many other networks around the world have done already without fuss. Doing anything else is just not cricket.