As of Tuesday users of leading VPN providers have been reporting that access to BBC iPlayer is now blocked and just as non-UK residents find a message stating it is only accessible in the UK, VPN users are reporting the same. The offending message is as follows:-
BBC iPlayer TV programmes are available to play in the UK only. Find out why. If you are in the UK and see this message please read this advice.
The BBC have announced they plan to offer a code-based system to allow Brits abroad access to iPlayer but as this requires a law change both in the UK and EU it is unlikely to come any time soon with some point in 2016 quoted as a possibility.
In the interim the option of using a VPN service has now been massively curtailed as large VPN providers find their range of UK servers blocked. Some respite may be found in other providers like IPVanish and LiquidVPN who since October 2015 until now are still working with BBC iPlayer.
More users than ever now make use of VPN services to protect their privacy. After revelations by Edward Snowden in 2013 hit headlines consumers are more concerned about their privacy and how nation states and criminals can gain access to their browsing habits and internet usage.
Due to this VPN use has rocketed, however, one driving factor behind this is the fact that a by-product of VPN use is it allows users to virtually reside in another country. With this comes the ability to stream content like BBC iPlayer overseas and if a recent study published in July is to be believed 60 million users worldwide with 38 million in China alone are using VPN services to watch BBC iPlayer outside the UK.
British viewers pay a yearly TV licence for the ability to watch BBC programmes live, however, the catch-up service does not require any form of payment to view and many UK citizens make use of the catch-up service only to avoid paying what is considered a rather expensive TV licence.
With no official solution to watch BBC iPlayer abroad and the huge number of legitimate UK residents who use a VPN service to protect their privacy, it seems odd that the BBC have decided to carry out such action. Requiring UK users who use VPN services to protect their privacy to disconnect in order to watch iPlayer will likely upset many and if the new draconian law the “Snooper’s Charter” is passed VPN use in the UK is only likely to increase.
Comparable US service Hulu started a round of VPN provider blocks in 2014 in attempts to block the same situation. After some manoeuvring many VPN services managed to regain access and the policy of constantly blocking VPN services ground to a halt, if BBC iPlayer plan to do the same will be left to be seen.
With the latest round of blocks it is likely that users will look to other forms of access to watch BBC shows such as the illegal use of torrents and other less savoury methods further increasing user risk.
Image courtesy of Idea go at FreeDigitalPhotos.net