It’s only a few miles across the Channel, but for thousands of UK Expats – it means the difference between watching UK TV and getting blocked. All the British TV Stations have invested heavily in their websites and they rebroadcast most of their programmes on these sites for several weeks. There are some slight restrictions, often films and US shows are subject to strict licensing agreements so they will normally be excluded.
The reason that you will get blocked from the BBC and all the UK Television channels in France is down to something called geo-blocking. This is the practice of checking the IP address of any visitor to the site and then using that to determine what access they are allowed. The BBC is funded by the UK TV License so, it assumes that anyone outside the UK hasn’t actually bought one, which is of course often not true.
This is what happens if you try and access a show from France or anywhere outside the United Kingdom. The BBC looks up your location, detects the French IP address and then blocks access to the media streamer. The site has no way of determining whether the visitor does actually pay for a UK TV license, so UK holidaymakers and travellers are similarly blocked. These restrictions are expected to change in the long term though as the European Union is trying to create a single European digital market which allows products to be transferred across boundaries within the EU.
Fortunately this is the internet and of course, there are a few simple workarounds to allow anyone to access the BBC from France, Germany or anywhere else for that matter. This video demonstrates how you can access using something called a proxy server to hide your location –
So What’s Happening?
Well this method simply involves hiding your real location by routing your internet connection through something called a proxy server. All this server does is forward and receive internet requests, but effectively hides your real location from the website you are using. This means that as long as the proxy server is based in the United Kingdom, then the website will think you are in the UK too so it will all word. If you have a selection of servers strategically placed in various different locations then you can effectively bypass all these various blocks and access whatever you like irrespective of your location.
Needless to say many of these sites are not very happy about this practice and over the years lots of them have implemented systems to detect and block the use of proxy servers. They still work on a few sites but that number is slowly dwindling, fortunately there is another very similar option which is much harder to detect called a Virtual Private Network.
A VPN operates in much the same way as a proxy server except there the communication takes place over a secure, encrypted channel – most web sites are currently unable to detect the use of a VPN. So if you want to watch the UK TV channels such as the BBC from France then investing in a British VPN like this one is probably your best option.