If you’re a UK resident then it’s likely that you have to pay for a TV licence. Now although technically it’s an avoidable cost, if you watch, stream or download pretty much anything from any UK TV stations then you really do need a license. There are plenty of people who don’t even own a television set who have to pay for a license too. So if you think that because you only watch Match of the Day on the quiet on your computer and don’t possess a TV set that you’re exempt then unfortunately it’s not true.
In fact because the vast majority of people do need a TV license there’s a presumption that everyone needs one. If you don’t use/own or watch any British TV channel live or recorded on any sort of device, or access BBC iPlayer in any way then you can apply for exemption. It’s worth doing this as there’s a possibility you will be pursued for one by default if you don’t – here’s the link
It’s probably why many people get very grumpy about the TV license, a default tax which pays for the BBC whether you actually watch it or not. I have several friends who watch nothing but YouTube and Big Brother who get very cross about paying for the TV license.
Personally I think it’s well worth it, and I suspect if you’ve lived anyway where there’s no decent public broadcast TV stations then you’ll agree. The joy of watching a film or two hour drama without endless commercial breaks is something to cherish whatever the cost. Plus it’s not actually that expensive if you watch any amount of TV, £150 a year seems a fairly reasonable cost to me and if you’re over 75 you can get it free (well at the moment!).
Plus you get full access to the wonderful and extensive BBC iPlayer which has 12 live channels broadcasting plus an archive with thousands of hours of wonderful television of all different types. It’s certainly on a par with many cable channels and subscriptions across the world most of which are much more expensive than that.
Yet there is a problem that affects anyone who travels, expats who’ve retired abroad or simply spends a lot of time outside the UK. The issue is that the BBC iPlayer and all access is blocked the minute you step outside the United Kingdom. It doesn’t actually matter if you’ve paid for a TV license or not!
Why Does BBC iPlayer Not Work Abroad ?
There are two sub questions here – why legally/politically or commercially doesn’t BBC iPlayer work abroad and the technical question of why it doesn’t work. We’re going to answer the second question, what is technically stopping us watching the BBC abroad (and how we may bypass this).
There’s one reason and one reason alone that you can’t watch the BBC online from anywhere outside the UK. It’s simply your IP address that is stopping this working. Every time you connect to the internet, be it from a home connection, hotel Wifi or anywhere else then you are assigned an IP address. This happens irrespective of how or what you’re connecting with, without an IP address the internet is simply inaccessible.
This IP address is effectively your identity when you’re online, and what’s more each one has a unique nationality. If you’re in the UK then you’re IP address is British, if you’re in Paris then it’s French and so on. Which is exactly what the BBC iPlayer does, in some sort of bizarre racial check it looks up the nationality of your IP address when you connect. So anything that is registered from outside the UK simply won’t work.
That’s all there is. A simple check on where your IP address is registered to and access is denied to all non-UK connections. What’s more there’s no check whatsoever on the account and whether you have a TV license or not.
So Are There any BBC iPlayer Sign On Workarounds ?
Oh yes there certainly are, indeed over the years that the BBC iPlayer has been in existence there have been many solutions to this issue. In fact as we speak millions of people from all over the world are watching the BBC and BBC iPlayer archive online irrespective of their actual location.
There is one solution which has stood the test of time and has worked consistently for over a decade or so and that’s using a VPN. It sounds technical but it’s really not if you use the custom software that people use to control the connection. It stands for virtual private network and basically allows you to connect to another server before you visit the BBC. This VPN server acts as a gateway both encrypting your internet connection (for security) and hiding your physical location completely.
Here’s a video of one in action being used to access the BBC from abroad –
As you can see it’s not technical, it’s not difficult and you really don’t need to understand anything about the VPN and how it works to use it. Effectively you just click on the country you need to appear from and that’s about it. So if you’re in somewhere like France or Spain and crave the BBC just click the UK flag and your internet connection will be routed through a UK server.
It also works for other UK based channels too, like ITV, Channels 4 and 5 all of whom broadcast the majority of their programmes online as well. So you can watch them from anywhere providing you click on a UK server first. It also gives you access to other countries channels too. SO for example you can watch US only channels like Hulu, NBC and HBO from Europe by choosing a US server instead of a UK one.
It’s a way of both protecting your privacy and bypassing all these numerous blocks and filters employed by websites across the world. It’s not just media sites that this affects as other sites restrict access based on location too – mostly you won’t realise until they suddenly don’t work anymore.
The program we demonstrated is called Identity Cloaker and you can test it here. We suggest you try the short ten day trial first to ensure it all works properly and you can watch the programmes you need to.
It’s easy to use, has lots of very fast servers which means that you can stream TV and videos across them easily. Beware of the super cheap VPNs as they charge low prices by overloading their servers which means that your programmes will stutter and buffer all the time which is not a pleasant experience. They are also easily detected and blocked by the BBC, so you’ll find them not working more often than not – read this article. Mostly all these people who are finding that BBC iPlayer not working through VPN is simply because they’re using a super, cheap overloaded service where the owners simply want your money.