For years now, the BBC has been fairly laid back in it’s enforcement of it’s online content. However this has now changed – for the first time the BBC iPlayer has begun blocking UK based proxies and VPN servers which are used to watch it’s content.
Just to summarise, currently live streaming of the BBC and it’s catch up service the BBC iPlayer is not accessible if you’re trying to access from outside the UK. What happens is that the BBC site checks your IP address when you connect and if it’s registered outside the United Kingdom then you won’t be able to watch anything. However for years many millions of people have used a proxy or VPN service to hide their real location and watch all the BBC stuff normally. These services merely reroute your connection through the UK and so technically you’re able to access the content without any problems. It is estimated that millions of people currently use some form of these services to watch the BBC online.
It’s exactly the same as all the other big media sites – Netflix for example had quarter of a million people watching from Australia before it was even available there. VPN services like Identity Cloaker have become increasingly sophisticated allowing you to switch countries with a click of a button. This effectively sidesteps any country restrictions no matter where you happen to be based.
Of course, the media companies don’t like this and have waged an on-going war on these services. Simple proxies are now detected and blocked by most big media sites, and many of them are always adding such services to their block lists. Over the years companies like Netflix and Hulu have invested heavily in technology to restrict the use of these services whilst pursuing many legal cases against the companies who run these services, the BBC have overall seemed rather indifferent.
You will always get blocked from outside the UK if you try to stream from BBC iPlayer, but the corporation never made much of an attempt to block access to VPNs and proxies. They do have a legal department which gets some of the more obvious services closed down, but were never particularly aggressive. This seems to be changing with the IP addresses of thousands of VPN services being blocked over the last few weeks combined with pursuing many copyright infringements over YouTube too.
Fortunately it’s unlikely this tactic will be 100% effective simply because they providers are able to switch the IP addresses of their VPN servers as quickly as they are being blocked. It’s best to look for a low-key service which provides UK based VPN servers without advertising the ability to watch these channels. The only service I use which is currently unaffected is Identity Cloaker, whereas unfortunately many of the IPVanish addresses appear to be blocked whilst accessing BBC iPlayer – they are apparently working on a solution though.