Sunday, 29 July 2007

Launch of the BBC iPlayer, but not for British expats

The BBC launched its much anticipated iPlayer yesterday, which it describes like this:

The BBC is launching a new easy-to-use service that lets you access television programmes via your PC. Initially, BBC iPlayer is offering "seven-day catch-up television" – meaning that BBC TV programmes can be downloaded for free up to a week after transmission.

The programmes will be free for UK licence fee payers, at high quality and with no advertising. Once you have downloaded a programme to your computer you have 30 days within which to start watching and seven days to finish watching it.
It's the kind of thing which I would be very excited about if I were still in the UK. Being in the USA now, however, it feels like a damp squib. It is just the kind of thing that could be very exciting for British expats like us who so miss the ready access to BBC TV we once took for granted. There appear to be no indications, though, of any plans to release the player for expats. On Ask Bruce, they explain:
Programmes will only be available to users within the UK for two reasons:

* the service is funded by UK TV licence payers
* copyright is only cleared for use within the UK for seven days after the first broadcast
I think the points are bogus. The first simply begs the question. Many British expats, including me, would happily pay our UK TV licence to get access to the player. There are many online TV streaming set-ups that work on this kind of basis, like Willow TV for the cricket, which simply lock out non-subscribers. This point also covers the copyright issue too -- you simply get the copyright coverage for British subscribers wherever they are based.

Where there has been upset about the new iPlayer, it has tended to come mainly from those who object to the fact that it only works, at this stage, for PC users. AKMA, a dedicated Mac user, for example, is furious about it and he points to an article called BBC Corrupted. I understand their points but think they are overreacting. The following, for example, misses the point:
But with this decision all these high principles are thrown away. No chance then for the millions of the worlds poorest children who are about to receive the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) computer to be able to view BBC educational programming. The OLPC runs only Free Software and Free Software is, of course, the main competitive threat to Microsoft. I don't expect we will see an iPlayer built to the principles of free software whilst this incompetent BBC governance is maintained.
The reason people can't access this content internationally is not because of some deal with Microsoft, but because the decision has been made to block all non-British IP addresses. Moreover, it is clear that the BBC are planning to release the content to Mac users and others in due course, so I wouldn't be inclined to be too concerned. Again, other online TV streaming is often limited to Windows Media Player, and with no plans to make changes.

But one of the frustrating things about the decision not to release the iPlayer to international users is that it only encourages the illicit downloading of materials, which many users would happily pay for if the BBC would give them a chance.


Jacqui said...

It seems to me that the BBC is losing a lot of money, excluding overseas visitors, as its not just expats who like BBC programmes. Hopefully, enough people will complain and they will see the light.

Enjoying your personal blog and it seems the family are doing well.

Anonymous said...

Mark, I'm an American living in China, so I can empathize with you: There's nothing like TV programming from someone's respective homeland.

However, there is a way around this. Matter of fact, I'm considering doing it simply because I'd like to get access to BBC programming, too.

The trick: Get a VPN in the U.K. This should (actually, will) do the trick. For example, in order to get around the Great Firewall in China, I use a VPN service based on the East Coast (actually, not too far from you). This allows me to get access to Blogger and Typepad blogs (like this one), Wikipedia (in English), and many other sites that are restricted in China.

But the main point is that my IP address is the address in the States, NOT my originating address in China. So, if you do this, your originating address will be somewhere in the U.K. and you'll be able to get through the BBC restrictions. Problem solved. Should cost you no more than 20 pounds per year for a Blowfish encrypted tunnel. However, I have no suggestions as to which service you should use since we face very different problems: For the most part, I need to show a U.S. IP address.

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks, Jackqui, for your comment; I agree.

Thanks, David. Interesting suggestion -- hadn't thought of VPNs. On previous occasions, I've tried proxy servers without success, e.g. because they block off the cricket commentary in the winter to international users, but the BBC seems wise to such things, and blocks the proxies too.

Anonymous said...

How do you go about getting a vpn in the UK?

Mark Goodacre said...

Anonymous: I don't know. I don't even know if it is possible for individuals, is it? If it is, it's not something I've heard of.

Paul Rees said...

As an expat it is frustrating not to be able to access higher quality video from the bbc - the real player news version does not give you access to Newsnight/Panorama and Question Time - which is frustrating!

Mark Goodacre said...

Paul: agreed. And what is particularly annoying to me is that we did have access to all that stuff until recently. Bummer.

Unknown said...

Hi Mark.

Can I suggest to you. This should solve all your problems in accessing up to date uk tv from all channels.

Mark Goodacre said...

James and Jennie: thanks for that. I agree, it's a great resource; UKNova is great too.

Anonymous said...

You are spot on Mark. I'm a Brit living in Canada and am desperate for British programming. I would happily pay to access iplayer and am sure thousands others would too. Instead, we end up considering using other less credible sources.

Unknown said...

Right now, the only way I can watch British Television is illegally. This really bothers, me, as I would gladly pay for doctor who by episode, watch commercials, or pay a licensing fee myself for the ability to watch it. On some of the episodes of Doctor Who they show people watching tv on a computer.

They're missing out on a goldmine.

Anonymous said...

I have started using this VPN

Works very well with iPlayer, currently $60 for 6 months, or $14.99 per month

Unknown said...

I was using vpngates but I have found They are cheaper at only $9.95 a month and their servers seem to be faster.

Anonymous said...

I use Banana VPN too - it's a bit of a chore to set up on Windows Vista (much simpler on WinXP!) but once it's set up it works PERFECTLY with BBC iPlayer and

BTW, ITV live doesn't work on Firefox, even with the required plug-ins (use Internet Explorer instead)

Anonymous said...

Guys, watch out with

These guys have a Russian IP address, which always makes me a bit wary.

I've also heard a couple guys at work who have had trouble connecting with them. Buyer beware !!!!

Anonymous said... is a scam - all they do is send you a PDF with some dodgy info.

Anonymous said...

Hi all, I have been using tv proxy to watch uk tv, you can find it here it's 10 euros per month and really reliable.

Anonymous said...

for those complaining of tech difficulties while setting the VPN, i suggest you try the installer happy vpn has for setting up a vpn connection. It's just click next - next - done.