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

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

How Can I Watch BBC News Abroad ?

Those of us of a certain age can probably remember dashing around on holiday searching for a three day old British newspaper so we could catch up with the news. There were usually a few about but normally at hugely inflated prices and worse still it was often just the Daily Mirror available.

Of course, this has now changed completely in the digital age. Anyone with a phone, tablet or laptop can keep up to date with all the local news easily while travelling. Even in the most remote locations, there’s likely to be an internet or wireless connection available somewhere. This is all you need to access most of the UK’s News media which is available online.

How Can I Watch BBC News Abroad

However it’s not all plain sailing, you can access most of the online newspapers it’s true although some do require subscriptions. This is not the case for all the online radio and TV news broadcasts though. Most broadcast online through portals like the BBC iPlayer and the ITV Hub, yet they are all restricted from access outside the UK.

Each time any connection is made to the BBC website for example, then the IP address is recorded and checked. If the address is registered to a country other than the UK (and that includes the Republic of Ireland) then you’ll get redirected to the International version of the site which has no BBC TV and radio streams. If you try and bypass by going directly to the BBC iPlayer site, then you’ll find that none of the video streams including all the BBC live TV and News ones will work.

It’s kind of annoying, if you’re on holiday and want to keep in touch. It’s even worse for ex-pats most of whom probably expected to be able to watch UK television online without restrictions before they moved abroad. Fortunately there is a solution and you can watch BBC News abroad as we can see in the following video –

How Can I Watch BBC News Abroad

It’s a relatively simple solution and one used by literally millions of people across the world to access things like the BBC iPlayer from outside the United Kingdom.    Indeed it was estimated that there were over three million connections from outside the UK watching England’s first World Cup game!  This of course, should have been technically impossible.

The BBC is well aware that many people use these VPN services to bypass the country restrictions and to some extent accept this.   However they do actively try and block these connections in specific ways;

  • Target services which openly advertise and market themselves as TV watching services, then get them closed down.
  • Monitor number of concurrent connections from individual IP addresses and block those with the most.

The problem that most of the media companies face, including the BBC is that it takes a huge amount of resources to keep tracking and blocking these connections.  Which is why they only go after the obvious targets, for example by threatening legal action against hosting services they can bring down thousands of outside users instantly.   If you search online you’ll come across lots of stories about a BBC iPlayer VPN not working.

It is also why you should be wary of the cheapest VPN services and those with free trials.  They will always be the ones with overloaded servers which at best will make streaming video painful and slow, at worst will be the first blocked because of the number of concurrent connections.  You won’t enjoy the BBC news headlines with constant pauses and buffering.

Our suggestion is the one demonstrated in the video, it’s called Identity Cloaker. It’s very simple to use, and you can test the short trial first to see how it works.  You’re sure to be impressed and remember it enables all the other BirtishUK channels too like ITV, Channel 4 and 5. Even use it to watch Sky Go abroad and UK Netflix, although you’ll need subscriptions to those.

Try it here – Identity Cloaker Trial

Best VPN to Watch BBC iPlayer

The BBC has one of the most popular websites in the world.  If you’ve ever browsed the programmes that are on it then you’ll not be surprised – world class news, comedy, drama, sports and current affairs shows broadcast live directly to the site and then archived for thirty days after.  In any month you can easily watch hundreds of dollars of content all for nothing.   Remember shows like Blue Planet 2 took years to complete and millions to produce and you could watch it all for nothing on the BBC website.

All nine of the BBC’s TV channels broadcast online indeed one of the BBC four is only available online now anyway.   Here’s the list of what’s broadcasting live at the moment –

Best VPN to Watch BBC iPlayer

That’s nine channels mostly broadcasting twenty four hours a day, packed with fantastic programmes for anyone to enjoy.  In reality if you like British TV, you can forget Amazon Prime, Netflix or Hulu – the BBC has everything you need online anyway for nothing.

Unfortunately though there is an issue if you’re based outside of the UK – simply put, you won’t be able to access any of these shows due to a system called geo-blocking.   This is the rather mean concept of blocking access based on their physical location.  Which in effect means that the BBC website will restrict access to anyone who is trying to access from anywhere outside the UK.   Indeed if you try and visit the BBC website from another country, you’ll actually see a completely different version of the site one created specifically for international audiences (but without all the video and TV streaming functionality).

Here’s what it look likes, the international versions of the BBC:

The site is similar but has more internationally based news content however crucially you’ll also notice that the BBC iPlayer and the ‘TV’ link are both missing from the top of the menu bar. There is no online media streaming facilities available on the international version at all.  Basically it’s nowhere near as good as the domestic site, yet this is the version you will find yourself at if your IP address is registered in any country other than the UK.

Which is why people have been using various services to hide their real IP address and location for many years.   It’s known as the BBC iPlayer VPN workaround and it’s used by millions of people across the world.  It’s not just used for British TV for expats either, all sorts of people use this method to access the BBC.

By pretending to be in the UK then you can get full access to the BBC website including BBC iPlayer irrespective of their real location.   The basic method involves routing your internet connection through something called a VPN (virtual private network) server based in the United Kingdom.  When you connect to the BBC it only sees the IP address of Confused about trying to access the BBC from abroad. Here’s the best VPN to watch BBC iPlayer available.the BBC and therefore everything works perfectly.

What’s the Best VPN to Watch BBC iPlayer ?

Although there are lots of these secure VPN services around which you can use to access the BBC from anywhere, there are a couple of important points to consider. Firstly during 2016/2017 the BBC has clamped down on the use of these services and started to block the most obvious and badly configured of these.   If you look online you’ll probably see lots of reports and posts about BBC iPlayer blocking VPN services.  Although this is true, to be honest all the best ones still work fine.

The ones which openly advertised or flooded their servers with too many users where easy to detect and the BBC blocked hundreds of them. So obviously it’s important to choose a service that still works! Here’s one of them in action.

As you can see it’s not actually difficult to use particularly on a PC or laptop. You basically just click on the country you need, e.g. UK for the BBC, which then routes all your internet traffic through that server. While you are connected to the UK VPN then you will appear to every website as a UK based internet user. Which means that you can also access all the other UK websites which are also normally blocked like ITV, Channels 4 and 5 plus Sky if you have an active subscription. Indeed people also use these VPN services to access other sites while travelling – for example you can access betting sites like Betfair which are normally restricted to the UK too.

The second most important factor for any VPN service if you’re going to use it for watching TV online is not surprisingly speed.  In fact this is one of the biggest variants between the decent VPN services and all the others.  There  are many really cheap VPN providers who keep their prices low by overloading their servers with thousands of concurrent users.  Not only does this make them more likely to be blocked by companies like the BBC it also make streaming video a very painful process indeed.

What happens if the VPN server is too slow is that the video stream will constantly buffer, that is stall while it tries to download the next frames.    It’s incredibly irritating to watch and you should steer clear of these cheap VPN services unless you’re prepared to download all the shows you need and watch them offline later.  This is of course one option if you’re prepared to plan your viewing in advance, be careful though that not all the BBC programmes are available for offline viewing and the other UK TV channels don’t currently offer this facility.

In our experience over the last decade, then there’s one VPN service which offers speed, security and works perfectly with all online UK TV channels plus it doesn’t cost a fortune and it’s called Identity Cloaker. In our opinion it’s the best VPN to watch BBC iPlayer so if you want to watch UK TV channels from anywhere in the world then give it a try.

It’s best to try the short trial first to see if it works well for you.

Click here to try the cheap trial of Identity Cloaker

There’s no contract or sneaky recurring subscription and it’s perfect for using on a short holiday or business trip. I’m confident you’ll love it, I’ve used it for nearly a decade in countries all across the world.