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Television The Media United Kingdom Entertainment Your Rights Online

BBC Begins Blocking VPN Access To iPlayer (torrentfreak.com) 174

nickweller points out Ars Technica's report (based on news initially on Torrent Freak) that The BBC has begun to block VPN users from its iPlayer video streaming service. From the article: Naturally, VPN providers are already working on a fix for the block, with IPVanish already claiming it has found a way around it. Earlier this year, a GlobalWebIndex report claimed that up to 60 million people outside the UK had been accessing iPlayer. The BBC disputes this figure however, saying: "These figures simply aren’t plausible. All our evidence shows the vast majority of BBC iPlayer usage is in the UK. BBC iPlayer and the content on it is paid for by UK licence fee payers in the UK and we take appropriate steps to protect access to this content."
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BBC Begins Blocking VPN Access To iPlayer

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 17, 2015 @01:04PM (#50749991)

    "BBC iPlayer and the content on it is paid for by UK licence fee payers in the UK and we take appropriate steps to protect access to this content."
    That's all well and good, but what about UK licence fee payers who are temporarily outside the UK? Shouldn't they still be able to access the content they are, after all, still paying for? Perhaps a more thoughtful process based on a log in, rather than just a blanket geo-block, might be a better solution.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      "All our evidence shows the vast majority of BBC iPlayer usage is in the UK."

      Isn't that the whole point of using a VPN?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Hognoxious ( 631665 )

      I'm outside the UK but I pay for the BBC. Not through the licence fee, but (I presume) they don't give it to my cable provider for nothing.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Are you speaking of BBC America?

        • Is that one of those spinoffs with adverts? Anyway, no. I get BBC1 & 2, exactly as in the UK, except with the time wrong.

          • Not just adverts. They even change out the music on shows like Top Gear because of licensing issues. It's terrible.
          • Cablelink in Dublin (then ntl, not sure what it's called now - possibly UPC) had BBC proper. I was never sure how that worked as surely that would break licencing.

      • by beelsebob ( 529313 ) on Saturday October 17, 2015 @01:57PM (#50750193)

        BBC America is not the same as the BBC.

        • Hognoxious didn't say he was American - nice assumption though. Many cable TV providers around the world provide subscription access to the UK BBC channels. I live in Switzerland and get BBC+ITV through my cable subscription.

      • Then you can receive that part of the BBC for which you pay through your cable provider.

        In the UK we pay 145.50 GBP per year for the BBC. Thats about $225. Your cable provider won't be paying that on your behalf for the BBC World channel.

        • by hjf ( 703092 )

          I've seen a lot of brits whine for that. I guess they've never seen TV outside UK. I'd gladly pay that money. BBC content is just fantastic, way superior to the ad-supported bullshit you get everywhere else.

          • by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <.slashdot. .at. .worf.net.> on Sunday October 18, 2015 @03:30AM (#50752461)

            I've seen a lot of brits whine for that. I guess they've never seen TV outside UK. I'd gladly pay that money. BBC content is just fantastic, way superior to the ad-supported bullshit you get everywhere else.

            Well, there are three models for funding TV, each with its pros and cons.

            You have ad-supported networks, where advertising pays for the programming. I'll lump in cable networks as part of the same. Here, the pro is that the end user pays nothing, while the con is the networks produce content to gather the most eyeballs. For a lot of the time, this means serving the lowest common denominator. The other con is that the network will not run content that potentially antagonizes an advertiser, for they represent dollars.

            You have subscriber funded networks, where subscribers pay for the content, which include networks like HBO, Netflix and even Amazon Prime. The pro here is the content tends to be better because the only way to make money is to attract subscribers, so they will produce programming that attracts new subscribers. They use lots of analytics to find out who are the ones likely to subscribe, then produce programming that will attract them. The con is, well, you have to pay money, and if you fall out of the desired subscriber demographic, then the programming is less and less interesting to you. The other con is well, they will not produce content that may be potentially controversial because they don't want half their subscriber base leaving.

            The third model is state-level funding. The pro here is the ability to produce any kind of content (in free countries) - you can stir controversy, anger advertisers and other groups provided you tell the truth (e.g., pro-consumer advocacy shows). You can also take risks and produce more specialized programming. The cons include, well, people complain about their tax dollars being mis-spent, especially if the programming is contrary to their beliefs. The other con is, well, in less free country, it's an ideal propaganda source.

            There's no ideal form of funding for TV, they all have their pros and cons.

            • by Bert64 ( 520050 )

              Most of the subscriber funded tv networks also show advertisements... I don't like the idea of paying twice for the same thing.

    • by Bert64 ( 520050 )

      Exactly, provide a login when you send the tv licence paperwork... Anyone who has a valid tv license also has a login, and can use it from anywhere. You could then allow foreign subscription too, after all why shouldn't someone outside the uk be able to watch bbc content if they're paying the same fee as anyone else?

      Many brits live abroad, and often still want to watch bbc content but there is often no legal way for them to do so.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 17, 2015 @01:29PM (#50750091)

    EU, a continent with borders, at least for human smugglers, drugs traffickers, money launderers and undeclared workers, but playing a documentary or tv show from your neighboring country? Than you're an ordinary thief, a pirate, a criminal.

    It's easier to kidnap an eastern European blond sex slave, buy a handful of Kalashnikov's in Bulgaria, buy some legal stocks with your black money in Austria, and sell your sex slave in a Dutch brothel, sell your weapons to some radicalized Muslims in Brussels and exchange your legal stocks for some British pounds in London, than it is to stream a freaking boring British TV show in France, even if the one who wants to stream the show is a Brit living in France.

    Watch video streams? Are you crazy, you criminal?

    Muslim immigrants? Well you take them and give them a warm welcome, and adapt to their culture, you racist.

  • So their concern comes down to people accessing content that they aren't paying for? Then charge for access. They estimate 60 million people outside the UK are accessing. That's a large potential market.

    I'm currently paying for VPN service to watch shows with iPlayer. I would be happy to just pay them directly.

    • by jo_ham ( 604554 )

      So their concern comes down to people accessing content that they aren't paying for? Then charge for access. They estimate 60 million people outside the UK are accessing. That's a large potential market.

      I'm currently paying for VPN service to watch shows with iPlayer. I would be happy to just pay them directly.

      The BBC doesn't estimate that number - that number has been suggested by third parties and the BBC has suggested that the number is nowhere near accurate.

      The other point is that they *do* charge for access outside the UK, but via their for-profit arm BBC Worldwide, which handles distribution of their content to non-UK markets. Due to various legal reasons in the way the BBC is funded, they have to do it this way, and the profits they can receive back from BBC Worldwide from these overseas sales are limited

      • So their concern comes down to people accessing content that they aren't paying for? Then charge for access. They estimate 60 million people outside the UK are accessing. That's a large potential market.

        I'm currently paying for VPN service to watch shows with iPlayer. I would be happy to just pay them directly.

        The BBC doesn't estimate that number - that number has been suggested by third parties and the BBC has suggested that the number is nowhere near accurate.

        The other point is that they *do* charge for access outside the UK, but via their for-profit arm BBC Worldwide, which handles distribution of their content to non-UK markets. Due to various legal reasons in the way the BBC is funded, they have to do it this way, and the profits they can receive back from BBC Worldwide from these overseas sales are limited by legal limitations.

        They understand how big the market is but they are legally hamstrung in being able to access it.

        So some bright parliamentarian should propose changing the law. People want to pay for our content? Then take their money.

        It doesn't even have to be a "for-profit" scenario, if that contravenes the BBC's mandate. Just charge what it takes to cover the cost of distribution. With iPlayer it's not even possible to skip over the ads. Even their advertisers should be happy with more eyeballs viewing their content.

        • by jo_ham ( 604554 )

          So their concern comes down to people accessing content that they aren't paying for? Then charge for access. They estimate 60 million people outside the UK are accessing. That's a large potential market.

          I'm currently paying for VPN service to watch shows with iPlayer. I would be happy to just pay them directly.

          The BBC doesn't estimate that number - that number has been suggested by third parties and the BBC has suggested that the number is nowhere near accurate.

          The other point is that they *do* charge for access outside the UK, but via their for-profit arm BBC Worldwide, which handles distribution of their content to non-UK markets. Due to various legal reasons in the way the BBC is funded, they have to do it this way, and the profits they can receive back from BBC Worldwide from these overseas sales are limited by legal limitations.

          They understand how big the market is but they are legally hamstrung in being able to access it.

          So some bright parliamentarian should propose changing the law. People want to pay for our content? Then take their money.

          It doesn't even have to be a "for-profit" scenario, if that contravenes the BBC's mandate. Just charge what it takes to cover the cost of distribution. With iPlayer it's not even possible to skip over the ads. Even their advertisers should be happy with more eyeballs viewing their content.

          Right now parliament is not where the BBC wants to go for support - the current conservative government wants nothing more than to cripple the BBC. They certainly want the licence fee to go away, or better yet, attach even more restrictive conditions to it that prevent the BBC from being able to compete with the wealthy donor to the tories - Rupert Murdoch.

          Also, there aren't any adverts on iPlayer, unless you mean the intertitles?

          • Also, there aren't any adverts on iPlayer, unless you mean the intertitles?

            I have no idea what an "intertitle" is, but I know what advertisements are, or what we refer to here as "commercials". Not sure if you call them that in the UK, but I am subjected to two or three rounds of commercials in the course of watching a show. You can see little markers on the iPlayer timeline where they are going to occur, but you can't skip past them.

            • by jo_ham ( 604554 )

              Inter titles are the things they show between shows, like the channel branding or upcoming pieces for shows on the network.

              On the iPlayer site (I live in the UK) these commercials are not present, nor are there any markers visible in the timeline that indicate where one would be. This was my confusion. I assume they appear in the same way that the ads do in youtube timelines?

              If these are present in your version of iPlayer, I assume they are inserted by the vpn host or something? They are definitely not pres

              • Ah, I see my mistake. I was confusing "itvplayer" with "iplayer".
                • by jo_ham ( 604554 )

                  Ah, I see my mistake. I was confusing "itvplayer" with "iplayer".

                  Ah, yes, that would do it. Yes, the other commercial providers in the UK (ITV, Channel 4 etc) have adverts on their players.

                  Strangely the adverts are always in super high definition and load instantly while the content itself is potato quality and often fails to load. Was never a fan of Channel 4's player in particular unless it has been vastly improved.

  • Imagine a company were to set up a roadwarrior style VPN in their UK office (which for the sake of argument assume a TV licence) for their UK staff who are visiting abroad to access IPlayer from their hotels in the evening. How would the BBC be able to tell that those staff were accessing it via the VPN and not from computers directly connected to the office LAN?

    • When I first started investigating accessing the iPlayer from outside the UK, I found that all you need is to use a UK-based DNS server. That's it. There was no check on IP address used to download the media. Other UK services required that the media download went to a UK IP address (after showing the adverts!).

      At some point the BBC might shut off access to IP addresses that are in datacenters since these are more likely to be using a VPN.

  • If limiting access to just the UK license fee payers is so important, why is it that BBC Radio is free to listen to online worldwide?

    • by xaxa ( 988988 )

      BBC World Service used to be funded directly by the government, although this changed in 2014. I don't think people have caught up with that yet.

  • Presumably they have a database out there of everyone who has paid their TV license. So the BBC could have a registration page where people input their details including their TV license number and (if the details are correct) would let them in.

    That way Brits overseas who have a paid up TV license are able to watch BBC stuff but those who don't have a TV license (including those in the UK) aren't able to watch it.

    • by Xiaran ( 836924 )
      If they did this then it would be a very short step to being able to easily block people that do not want to pay their TV license. The BBC do not want this.
  • Stop trying to prevent me from watching it. Let me pay the damn license fee for a legal login to that player that is not geo-locked.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I am a US citizen, born and raised. And I despise American TV.
    It's SHIT. 98% of everything on US TV is shit. Plain and simple.
    I subscribe to Dish AT250 and it's SHIT. So called "reality" shows.
    The "Science" channel? Where's the science? A bunch of washed up entertainers reviewing youtube idiots, explaining why a shot to the nuts hurts.

    The "Learning" channel? Really?
    And on and on and on.. What pisses me off is that I have to subscribe to the top tier to get the slightly less shitty channels. $110 a

    • by Ash-Fox ( 726320 )

      If I could have full access to the BBC library through iPlayer I would be happy to pay them that.

      Get a UK VPS, setup VPN on VPS, use VPN to access iPlayer (BBC are blocking VPN providers, they can't detect VPNs being used typically).

      One thing to consider is that I wouldn't have access to live OTA TV like a resident would so perhaps bring the fee down a little.

      If you watch live BBC programming, it doesn't matter if it's through satellite, cable, over the air or Internet streaming, you have to pay for a lic

    • I've watched a LOT of BBC material and it's great. I love their science shows where they teach real science without hand puppets and crayons. Think Through the Wormhole with their idiotic animations. Brian Cox vs Morgan Freeman. WTF? Morgan Freeman is not a scientist. Not even a little. Also TTWH is always going on about the "god" thing which is extremely annoying. So much about that show is crap.

      The funny thing is, that many of us Brit science-y types bemoan the state of BBC science programming these days, compared to what it used to be back in the 70s and 80s. By the 90s, all the old guys had retired and the young arts graduates had taken over, and it was all dumbed down hugely, on the grounds that if they couldn't understand it, then surely nobody could.

      Thankfully this trend has reversed a little in recent years, although my blood still boiled when, during the first episode of Prof. Brian Cox's

  • How exactly do you expect to block every VPN? How do you determine what connections are VPNs and what aren't? I don't get how a country that is so tech savvy can be so tech stupid.

We can found no scientific discipline, nor a healthy profession on the technical mistakes of the Department of Defense and IBM. -- Edsger Dijkstra

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