BBC Waste: Auntie’s Playing ‘Whack-A-Mole’ With VPN Services To Stop Foreigners Using iPlayer

VPN services

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is needlessly chucking time and money away by playing “whack a mole” with foreign IP addresses that are created by Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) in a bid to stop those who haven’t paid the licence fee watching the iPlayer on-demand service.

Yes, the BBC really is trying to shut down iPlayer for up to 60 million people world wide who tune in using a masked IP address, or who simply prefer to use VPNs from within the United Kingdom, so that they can browse the web more securely.

TorrentFreak broke the news earlier this week, quoting online privacy firm TorGuard’s Ben van der Pelt, who said: “Let the game of whack-an-IP begin”.

TorrentFreak notes:

The BBC is taking measures against the unauthorized use of its iPlayer service by actively blocking UK VPN services. The measures aim to prevent foreigners from accessing iPlayer without permission, but they’re also blocking many legitimate UK citizens from surfing the Internet securely.

The BBC’s online catchup service iPlayer has been a great success, both in the UK and abroad.

While the service is intended for UK viewers, who have to pay a mandatory TV license, it’s also commonly used overseas. Recent research suggests that 60 million people outside the UK access iPlayer through VPNs and other circumvention tools.

However, over the past several days TF has received several reports from VPN users who can no longer access iPlayer from UK-based VPN servers.

“BBC iPlayer TV programmes are available to play in the UK only,” is the notice they receive instead.

This effectively stops foreigners and expats from accessing the service, but it also affects license paying UK citizens who use a VPN to browse the Internet securely. They will now have to disconnect their VPN if they want to access iPlayer.

The BBC informs TF that the VPN ban was implemented to keep iPlayer ‘pirates’ at bay. The company is doing its best to keep company and school VPNs open but advises regular users to disconnect their VPN service in advance if they want to access iPlayer.

“We regularly make updates to our technology to help prevent access to BBC iPlayer from outside the UK which breaks our terms of use,” a BBC spokesperson tells us.

“BBC iPlayer is freely available to users across the UK without a VPN, and we also seek to ensure users of private VPNs such as those used by schools and companies in the UK have access.”

Van Der Pelt added: “It amazes me that an increasing number of streaming services are willing to sacrifice hundreds of thousands of legitimate members over VPN usage. One can only assume this will hurt BBC iPlayer subscriber numbers as most people will simply look elsewhere.”

Given the fact that the BBC is constantly telling its funders and authorities that part of why it is so great is that it projects British influence abroad, the latest move may perhaps be perceived as hypocritical or counter-productive.