BBC Recognizes VPN Services. Oh No it Doesn’t!

You tend to see these sort of comments all over the internet now. Someone will find that their crappy VPN service which costs them $2 every year has suddenly started to be blocked by the BBC – ergo the BBC has developed deep packet inspection systems which can sniff out all virtual private network connections and block them automatically.    The reality is somewhat different and can be easily verified by using a decent, secure VPN which works perfectly well with BBC and all the other UK stations.

Detecting VPN traffic is not easy, the Chinese government have systems which can – already implemented as part of the Great Firewall of China.  Yet even these are not perfect and many people and visitors use VPNs in China all the time to access blocked and filtered sites which are normally inaccessible.   It’s been some years since the Chinese implemented their active probing system which  can detect and block Tor nodes and connections. Their technology has almost certainly developed since then to pick up lots more circumvention systems, but this comes at a huge cost both monetary and resources.  Indeed the battle develops on both sides and there are now many defenses against Chinese active probing too.

BBC Recognizes VPN

Despite what many think of them the BBC are not an authoritarian state seeking to control billions of people’s actions.   Indeed until a few years ago the BBC were very relaxed about the whole geo-restricting situation.  Sure they’ve always made the BBC iPlayer inaccessible from outside the UK, but only a few years ago you could use any sort of free proxy based in the UK to bypass these blocks.  They made virtually no attempt to block or filter any of these connections despite quite obviously having millions of active inbound connections watching from all over the world.  People were watching from all over from France, across the border in Ireland, thousands in Spain and from as far away as Australia.   There was little evidence that the BBC actually were that concerned about these foreign visitors at all.

Can the BBC Recognize VPN Services?

A  few years ago thought this changed, for whatever reason the BBC started to take measures to enforce their UK only restrictions.  First the proxies were finally blocked, the BBC followed the example of most online media sites which were able to detect and block incoming proxy connections automatically.  This was not difficult as a standard proxy connection is not encrypted and easy to detect so it had little administrative cost too.  There were some issues with legitimate UK users having some problems,  as they were using proxy servers in educational and corporate networks within the UK but these issues have mostly been eradicated now.

However by this time, VPNs have become increasingly common and mainstream.  Many of use routinely use VPNs when we travel because of the security aspects, but also to connect to the myriad of domestic websites which we lose access to when travelling.  It’s perfectly common now for people to have little VPN apps on their tablets, phones and laptops which can be activated with a click. For anyone who travels or lives abroad, using VPNs is perfectly common whereas previously it was only the real technical geeks who had an interest in these sorts of systems.

Perhaps it was this increasing prevalence or the fact that the BBC was facing huge pressures on it’s budgets but about two years ago they started on the VPNs too.  With little warning, suddenly thousands of people found their access to the BBC restricted even when using a UK based VPN service.  Suddenly people had real difficulties in watching the BBC News or enjoying Eastenders while sunning themselves on the Cost Del Sol.   Many very popular VPN services used primarily to access UK television where suddenly blocked and became useless.

Now despite the hysterics that you could see online, the BBC have not developed some super advanced deep packet inspection systems that block all the VPNs.  There is no way they have the resources or expertise to implement such a system.  Yet there are very simple and practical alternatives which can be used to detect and block VPNs almost as effectively.

  1. Many VPN services make themselves very easy to detect by offering ‘TV watching Services’, lots even used the copyright protected BBC logos on their sales pages!  These are extremely easy to deal with through normal legal channels.  The most reliable method is to threaten legal action to the hosting providers, who would almost always simply cut off their connections rather than risk a legal battle.  Remember these servers have to be based in the UK in order to defeat the country IP detection.   Many VPN services were ‘taken out’ using this method and you’ll notice that most survivors make no direct mention of the BBC or UK TV watching on their sites.
  2. Concurrent connections – it doesn’t take any advanced detection systems to notice when there are ten thousand users all watching from the same IP address.  Many VPN services to cut down costs and lower their prices have overloaded servers and IP addresses with users.  Not only does this make using such a VPN very slow it also makes it very simple to detect.  A quick update to the Beeb’s firewall will block all those connections instantly.
  3. A very effective and simple method to block these companies is to simply buy an account and make a note of all their IP addresses.  Anyone can subscribe and copy down all the service’s UK IP addresses and hand them over to the BBC’s internet security section who could block them in minutes.  These IP addresses can be changed of course, but don’t underestimate the costs and effort needed to constantly swap out IP address ranges.

Now none of these methods are perfect and all have some drawbacks, blocking loads of UK IP address ranges can only really be done in the sort term.  Yet they are very easy to implement and require little investment and effort in order to block loads of spoofed connections.    It’s certainly nowhere near the effort it would require to instigate any sort of automatic VPN detection system to deny access to the BBC iplayer app.   These are what the BBC did and although they took out thousands of VPN services, the clever and discrete ones were actually barely impacted at all.  For example none of the genuine long term security VPN services were really affected at all – i.e.  those who didn’t advertise BBC circumvention techniques for instance.  Indeed it’s a useful tip to check that there’s no obvious TV watching advertising on a VPN site before you subscribe.

It’s also become more and more evident that a lot of this ‘crackdown’ effort was actually short lived. Although the BBC did take action and closed lots of VPN services, they don’t seem to have maintained this aggressive stance.  Just type in ‘ watch BBC iPlayer abroad’ or something similar into Google and you’ll now see lots of companies starting to place advertisements again.   A year or so ago there were no adverts of this type as the advertisers would have made themselves instant targets.  I’d still steer well clear of companies who do this though as it’s so easy to block access to their VPN services.

Basically if you pick a sensible company who keeps a relatively low profile there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to access the BBC from anywhere in the world using a VPN or Smart DNS system.  If you thought these services were dead, don’t worry there’s still loads that work.  IT does take some investment to stay hidden so you’ll  not find a free vpn for BBC iplayer anymore.  However be assured that there are still millions of people watching the BBC online from all over the world today.

Below we have a couple of our favorites which we can recommend, either of which will work perfectly with BBC iPlayer from anywhere.

Try these Out, ones a DNS based system the other a BBC iplayer VPN – but  both work perfectly for accessing all major UK TV Channels from abroad in 2018.

Identity Cloaker
Smart DNS Proxy

BBC Ryder Cup Coverage from Abroad

Unfortunately, the BBC no longer has the live broadcast rights to the Ryder Cup.  They lost them in 2013 when the costs simply became unjustifiable for a public broadcaster. From this point the UK rights were bought out Sky who have invested heavily in most major sports events.   The Ryder cup is held once every two years, alternating between Europe and the USA, Sky created specific TV channels for the event in 2014 onwards.

The BBC do still pay for a highlights package and for the non-golf fanatic then it’s a great option usually broadcast the evening of each day.  However for many it’s simply not enough, fortunately you should be able to find coverage in most European countries and across North America pretty easily.  For the full live coverage, NBC have the current US rights in 2018 and have had for over twenty years.

However if you’re in a country where you can’t watch the Ryder Cup then you can get access using a VPN or Smart DNS system.  Using these you can effectively bypass any country restriction – so you can watch NBC from outside the US or enjoy the BBC highlights by using a UK server.

Accessing BBC Ryder Cup Coverage from Abroad

These services allow you to switch your location at will, both the VPN and Smart DNS should allow you to watch all UK television.  They can certainly give you access to the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 without any restrictions.  You can also access services like Sky as well although you will need a subscription in addition to a service to hide your location.  Sky can be quite expensive and you normally have to subscribe for a year to get the best deals.  Although it’s worth checking out NOW TV which offers the facility to get Sky Sports for a shorter period like a single month.

Remember you will need a UK VPN or a DNS service to subscribe to the subscription services too. A rather ridiculous state of affairs considering you’re paying for a product that disappears when you cross a national boundary.  However if you’re just on holiday for a short while then you can try out this free trial of a BBC VPN, it will last for 14 days so perfect if you’re travelling for a short time like a holiday.

All that happens is that your connection is routed through the country selected. SO if you want any of the UK TV channels like the BBC then you’d select a UK server, if you want a US channel you’d pick a server based in the US and so on. There’s no real complication and you’re certainly not doing anything even vaguely illegal, merely using a security service to encrypt and maintain your privacy.

The advantage of the Smart DNS system for the BBC is that it doesn’t slow your connection down. Instead of routing everything through a single connection it merely does enough to hide your location and streams the rest directly. IT means there’s no impact on your network speed, whereas the VPN will slow your connection down quite considerably in some situations.
At the worst you can use this as a free trial of BBC iPlayer plus it also gives you a decent chance to use it before you make up your mind.

Click here to try – Totally Free trial

Accessing BBC iPlayer with DNS

Now on this site, we talk a lot about using VPNs, proxies to hide your IP address in order to access the BBC from outside the United Kingdom. The concept is simple, the BBC checks your IP address when you logon and if it sees a non-UK registered address you get redirected to the rather dull International version of the BBC. It’s actually not a bad site but unfortunately it lacks all the best stuff like live TV and the wonderful BBC iPlayer archive. To access the full site you need to hide your true location and pretend to be in the UK to access any British TV sites.

Proxies no longer work and indeed many VPNs have been blocked too but many still work and as long as the server you connect to has a UK IP address, then everything should be fine. However for a variety of reasons, perhaps you can’t use a VPN to access the BBC, perhaps it’s an old computer, a media device or perhaps a games console which won’t support a VPN connection. Also on very slow connections VPNs can slow down your internet speed significantly making it difficult to stream video successfully.

BBC iPlayer with DNS

So what can you do? Are there any other options for people who can’t use a VPN for whatever reason?   The basic solution is after all the same, hide your real IP address and make it look like you’re in the UK.

Using BBC iPlayer with DNS

However, there is a another method if you want to use a Smart TV, games console or are just stuck with a super slow internet connection which grinds to a halt when you attempt video over a VPN!   It’s called Smart DNS and you’ve probably seen it mentioned in expat forums or the many sites which help you access the BBC from anywhere.

The basic premise is exactly  the same, hide your IP address from the BBC web servers and pretend to be in the UK.  However there are two fundamental differences between a VPN and Smart DNS which make it a viable option for many.  Firstly to set it up you need no client software or operating system support for native VPN functionality.  Basically you need just one thing, the ability to change the DNS servers specified on the device you need.

Secondly, unlike a VPN your whole connection doesn’t need to be routed through the third server.  When you try and access a geo-restricted site like the BBC, only part of the connection is routed through a UK server – basically enough to fool the web site that you’re in the UK.   It also doesn’t encrypt the connection which can also impact the speed, although obviously if you’re concerned about privacy this may not be a good thing.

Here’s how it works –

In the example above it’s running on a computer but the beauty of Smart DNS is that you can set it up on most devices that are internet enabled. If you can get access to the network connections and manually update the DNS server addresses on a device there’s a good chance that it will work. There is one major caveat though, some devices use something called ‘transparent DNS proxy‘ which force them to use specific DNS servers. There aren’t loads of devices which use this, but the Roku and Xbox One console are two high profile examples.

You can still get Smart DNS to work on these devices but it’s much more difficult. Basically you have to map static routes on your internet router to force the devices to use the Smart DNS servers instead of the set ones (usually Google DNS servers). However it can be quite tricky and not all routers will support this functionality.

Not Recommended for Smart DNS

If you haven’t got your hardware yet, it’s worth checking you can change the DNS settings if you want to use BBC iPlayer with DNS on it. There aren’t many devices which enforce their DNS settings, but the number seems to be increasing presumably due to pressure from these media companies.

Obviously you haven’t much choice if you want to enable something like a Smart TV directly, as a VPN will be impossible to enable directly. Again though it’s worth checking the manufacturer as it could save you some anguish.  Generally if you can get access to the DNS server configuration under some network settings area then you should be ok. On the Roku for example there’s actually no proper network configuration settings accessible.   Although on these devices you may be able to assign the DNS servers using DHCP from your wireless/cable or ADSL router.

Normally though it’s pretty straight forward and most devices you can enable BBC iPlayer DNS settings very quickly in a matter of minutes.   Here’s the steps you would take on most devices –

  • Sign up for a Smart DNS Service – (free trial )
  • Check IP addresses of Smart DNS servers
  • Change Devices DNS server to the Smart DNS ones
  • Enable IP Address on Smart DNS Service

All of the steps can be completed very easily and after that Smart DNS should be enabled on that device and you should be able to access a myriad of previously blocked sites including of course BBC media iplayer and it’s associated sites. Many of the best Smart DNS app services will even allow you to configure your device to use different versions of sites – such as specifying US Netflix. This is also easier than using a VPN which will lock you into a specific country whilst it’s enabled – e.g if you use a US server you’ll be locked out of UK sites like the BBC.

This sounds trivial but it’s actually a huge time saver meaning you can set up a single device to watch US Television and UK Televisions stations without changing anything.  Before you even need to access the BBC iPlayer sign in screen – the DNS server directs you to the appropriate proxy server whenever you try and access the site, so a BBC iPlayer proxy would be in the UK and for Hulu, HBO etc you’d be redirected via a US one and so on.

After you set up your Smart DNS account it petty much all goes on in the background.  However if you change your main IP address then you’ll have to re-enable it in your account.  This can be a bit inconvenient if your address changes often and makes Smart DNS not really ideal for mobile devices if you move around a lot.   For home connections though it’s certainly the easiest BBC iPlayer proxy option that works anywhere in the world.

So if you want to learn how to watch BBC iPlayer in Canada, the USA or anywhere in the world then try it out.

Here’s the Smart DNS Free Trial Below. 

Smart DNS

The Nazis, The British Accent, and BBC News


Video Transcript

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is an institution known and respected the world over for its relative impartiality and objectivity compared to many other news sources, with numerous surveys showing that the BBC is one of the most trusted sources of news in both the UK and the US. But we’re not here to talk about that. We’re here to talk about dinner jackets, Received Pronunciation, the Nazis, and what all of this has to do with the BBC News. Back when the BBC was first launched in 1922, the first General Manager of the corporation, Scottish engineer Sir John Reith, was insistent that the BBC be as formal and quintessentially British as possible, and he created a number of rules towards this end. (Fun fact: Reith had no experience with anything related to broadcasting when he applied to manage the BBC).

One thing in particular Reith stressed when he first helmed the BBC is that the newscasters spoke the “King’s English“, known today as “BBC English” or more technically “Received Pronunciation”, as he felt it was “a style or quality of English that would not be laughed at in any part of the country”. Reith was also aware that the broadcasts might be played abroad and felt that a regional accent would be difficult for non-Britain’s to understand. Reith also noted, We have made a special effort to secure in our stations men who, in the presentation of program items, the reading of news bulletins and so on, can be relied upon to employ the correct pronunciation of the English tongue… I have frequently heard that disputes as to the right pronunciation of words have been settled by reference of the manner in which they have been spoken on the wireless. No one would deny the great advantage of a standard pronunciation of the language, not only in theory but in practice.

Our responsibilities in this matter are obvious, since in talking to so vast a multitude, mistakes are likely to be promulgated to a much greater extent than was ever possible before. Further, in the 1929 BBC Handbook, it was noted that their pronunciation guidelines in this matter “[are] not to be regarded as implying that all other pronunciations are wrong: the recommendations are made in order to ensure uniformity of practice, and to protect the Announcers from the criticism to which the very peculiar nature of their work renders them liable.” As for Received Pronunciation or RP as it’s often abbreviated to, it is defined as: “The standard form of British English pronunciation”

(Though, funny enough, RP is only used by an estimated 2-3% of English people today, with the number of Scottish, Irish and Welsh users being described as “negligible”.) First defined in 1869 by linguist, A. J. Ellis, Received Pronunciation basically entails pronouncing your words “properly” as they are written in the dictionary. Although the general idea behind Received Pronunciation is to attempt to remove a person’s regional accent, it is nonetheless commonly associated with the south of England and the upper class. Meaning that although Received Pronunciation masks a person’s regional background, it says a lot about a person’s social upbringing and how they were educated. With this in mind, although one of Reith’s goals in using RP was to appeal to the widest audience possible, many listeners still felt alienated by the broadcasts being beamed into their homes because of this “upper class” accent being used.

Despite this, newscasters were required to use Received Pronunciation right up until World War 2. Why did this change during the war? The Ministry of Information was worried about the Nazis hijacking the radio waves. You see, during World War 2, Nazi Germany invested a lot of time and money in training its spies and propagandists to speak using perfect Received Pronunciation so that they could effectively pass as Brits. Thus, the Ministry of Information became quite concerned that the Nazis could potentially issue orders over the radio in a voice that would be indistinguishable from one of their own newscasters. In addition, the then Deputy Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, noted the aforementioned fact that the total monopoly newscasters with upper class sounding voices had on the news was offensive to the working class. This image of newsreaders being stuffy, upper class toffs wasn’t helped by an edict passed down in 1926 from Reith that stated any newscaster reading the news after 8PM had to wear a dinner jacket while on air, despite that no one could see them.

Former BBC radio personality Stuart Hibberd noted of this, Personally, I have always thought it only right and proper that announcers should wear evening dress on duty… There are, of course, certain disadvantages. It is not ideal kit in which to read the News- I myself hate having anything tight around my neck when broadcasting- and I remember that more than once the engineers said that my shirt-front creaked during the reading of the bulletin. (This- is London, 1950) In any event, as a result of the concerns of Attlee and the Ministry of Information, the BBC hired several newscasters possessing broad regional accents that would be more difficult for Nazis to perfectly copy and would hopefully appeal to the “common man”.

The first person to read the news on the BBC possessing a regional accent was one Wilfred Pickles, who spoke with a broad Yorkshire accent. Far from being a popular move, when Pickles was hired by the BBC in 1941, his accent offended many listeners so much that they wrote letters to the BBC, blasting them for having the audacity to sully the news with the (smooth, sensual sounds of the amazing and superior) Yorkshireman’s voice. (Fun fact: The author of this piece has the same accent… No big deal.) In fact, by 1949, Pickles himself noted that because of his accent, he had become the “central feature in a heated national controversy”, during which Pickles was frequently made fun of by various London cartoonists and in other forms of popular media. Nonetheless, after the end of World War 2, the BBC continued to loosen its guidelines and with the advent of more localised news, began to hire more people who spoke with the respective accent of the region they were being broadcast. That said, the BBC does continue to generally use newscasters with more mild accents in international broadcasts to make sure they are as understandable as possible to those audiences.

Additional: Using Smart DNS to Access BBC iPlayer Abroad

Why You Should Unlock US Netflix DNS

Now although the main focus of this website is UK television and ways you watch it online from anywhere in the world.  There are also other opportunities out there for watching some fantastic movies and TV shows that exist outside the UK.  The majority of my viewing is the BBC, with some occasional forays into ITV and Channel 4 yet for movies it has to be the big online media companies like Amazon and Netflix.

Yet after watching far too much Netflix for a couple of years, I started to run out of things I wanted to watch.  Sure there’s loads of new TV shows being released all the time, but less so for films.  Anyway it was suggested that I look at some of the other versions of Netflix which came as a surprise to me.

US Netflix DNS

It turns out that every version of Netflix is completely different!  Although you can use your Netflix account in most countries in the world.  The number of films and TV shows you see will vary wildly depending on your location – so the Mexican Netflix is different to the French Netflix and so on.

How to Unblock US Netflix

Now some of this difference is related to different language variants which is understandable.  Yet there is a much bigger difference which seems to be related to how valuable the local market is.  To explain, the US version of Netflix has literally thousands more movies and TV shows than any other version.  A startling example is that the latest Star Wars film – The Last Jedi appeared on the US version of Netflix a few months after the cinema, it has yet to appear in any of the European locales yet.

This video explains it – How to Get Netflix America in UK, it’s also hosted on YouTube if you want to view it there.

It’s incredible really to think  that just by logging in from a different country then you could get access to thousands more movies.   It makes sense from a commercial sense, after all the US market is potentially by far the largest compared to other countries so it makes sense spending more on content.  Doesn’t stop the ordinary Netflix subscriber feel a little cheated though especially as the subscription cost is usually at least the same or more!

As the video demonstrates though it’s actually fairly easy to switch the version you get to the US version.  All you need to do is to hide your location before you login and make it look like you’re in the USA.   It’s exactly the same method as getting access to the BBC from outside the UK, except you’re getting access to a specific version i.e US Netflix.   The best method I’ve found by far to unblock websites like this though is Smart DNS which is the cut down version of a VPN.

Hard to Find – American Netflix DNS 2018

Although you can find a few Smart DNS solutions that work with the BBC and other channels there are very, very few which work with Netflix. This is because the company block access from all commercially registered IP addresses which is what most companies use to host their servers with. Residential IP addresses are expensive and difficult to obtain hence why it’s hard to find a provider that supports US Netflix.   Certainly there are no free ones, Netflix DNS codes 2018 are all going to be paid I’m afraid, simply because they’re expensive to set up now.

Please remember that using just Smart DNS provides no additional security at all, but the advantage is that it doesn’t slow down your connection either. Our recommendation has both, a US Netflix DNS account plus a VPN.  So please use the VPN client when you need security and leave Smart DNS to unblock US Netflix.

You can try it out for 14 days entirely free of charge here – Free Trial Offer