The BBC has decided that from 2017 a BBC iPlayer subscription will be necessary to access the player. The decision is a double-edged sword aimed firstly at enforcing new British TV license rules. Furthermore, the BBC hopes that postcode subscriptions will help to crack down on the amount of people that overcome geo restrictions to watch iPlayer with a VPN from abroad.
At the moment, users can opt into the BBC’s online subscription service if they want to. For now, iPlayer remains available on demand without a subscription. From next year, however, Auntie Beeb has decided to make its BBC ID subscription mandatory to access the player.
In addition, all the people that currently have a BBC ID subscription are required to submit their British postcodes by next Tuesday. The postcode, of course, will also be a necessary part of the process when a BBC iPlayer subscription is made mandatory next year.
This is the BBC’s description of it’s BBC ID subscription service. Impressively, the service already has seven million registered users,
‘A BBC ID – which allows users to personalize BBC content such as online news – currently requires only an email address and password, though anyone wishing to comment on stories must also provide a date of birth.’
BBC iPlayer Subscription for improved services?
The BBC claims it wants people’s postcodes to help improve services by tailoring their service to their local area. Critics, however, feel it has much more to do with enforcing the new British TV license laws. These are new rules that came into action this month that stipulate that a license fee must be paid by UK residents that watch BBC programming online.
That is why critics are coughing loudly and making funny faces at the BBC’s claims that this is all happening for the good of the consumer. It certainly does feel like the ability to personalize content and tailor news to localities is a neatly executed excuse for snooping in and gathering every iPlayer user’s postcode for cross-referencing against TV licenses.
At the moment, people from all over the world use proxies and VPNs to gain access to the geo-restricted BBC iPlayer website. While BBC iPlayer remains a freely accessible video streaming on demand service, a VPN can be used to spoof from any location on earth to within the UK. VPN servers within the UK, and encrypted data combine to give VPN users the appearance of being within the UK. With that accomplished, VPN users worldwide can enjoy iPlayer like any other regular British Lady or Lord from the Cotswolds.
Overcoming the iPlayer lock down
As soon as the BBC locks-up its service to subscribers only, however, all those thousands of VPN users living outside the UK are suddenly going to need to subscribe. In theory, this shouldn’t be too hard. By using a VPN to tunnel into the UK, people can still gain access to the subscription page. When subscribing, they can then simply enter a pre-researched British postcode of their choosing – preferably one that ties into the location of the UK VPN server that they are using.
With the fake postcode entered, access to the BBC iPlayer will be granted once again. You may be thinking that it sounds risky? What if they realize I don’t live there, you ask? That is a valid concern. The BBC could well use the postcodes from subscriptions to send out TV license bills to registered BBC ID subscribers. When they try to find you (to ask you for your license payments) you won’t exist. This could well ring the BBC’s alarm bells and perhaps even lead to illegitimate iPlayer accounts being shut down.
In addition, because you have been discovered watching the BBC’s programming in a copyright restricted location, you are technically a criminal and could be prosecuted for copyright theft. Thankfully, a VPN encrypts all user data so that visited websites have no idea who the VPN user is, or where they really are.
Encryption and Anonymity
What is true is that the BBC’s Postcode plunder will increase the risks related to watching iPlayer from restricted regions. With that in mind, anybody that does decide to take the risk by signing up for iPlayer using a fake UK Postcode would be wise to do so using a false identity also. Inventing a British sounding name to go with a true-Brit postcode will keep a VPN user’s real identity concealed. It will also make their account blend in more easily with those of bonafide British residents.
Of course, that account may eventually be discovered and shut down. At that point, however, the VPN user could simply subscribe again with another fake name and postcode.
Naturally, I can’t specifically advise you to break the law with a fake subscription. Anybody that does forge a UK Postcode from overseas does so at their own risk, you have been warned! While it is impossible for me to endorse the use of a VPN to watch iPlayer from abroad, it is also true that many thousands of people already do it. The steps described above, however, are only for descriptive purposes. They are provided only to inform readers about what an iPlayer-addicted VPN user might decide to do if they want to continue watching iPlayer from overseas in 2017.
TV license explosion in the UK
The BBC has revealed that changing the law to make UK TV license fees apply even to its online iPlayer has already led to a noticeable increase in license payments. The big brother tactic is working, and once iPlayer is put behind lock and key in 2017, the Beeb will have every British iPlayer viewer’s postcode. This fact will no doubt lead to another explosion of TV license fees being paid within the UK.
With the invasive data grab to be a part of the contract to watch iPlayer, UK residents have been digitally kettled. They have been unjustly manipulated into handing over their personal details. The only real surprise, however, is that it’s taken until now for the BBC to decide to enact this policy.
One thing is for certain. In 2017 things are going to get a little bit tougher for people who spoof their IP to the UK to watch the BBC iPlayer. A little bit harder, but not even close to impossible.