from the bad-for-everyone dept
The BBC is a rather odd organization. Unlike commercial broadcasters, or those given money directly by national governments, it is mainly funded by a public licensing fee that must be paid by anyone in the UK who watches or records TV programs in real time, using:
TVs, computers, mobile phones, games consoles, digital boxes and DVD/VHS recorders.
To justify the £145 (about $220) annual fee, the BBC takes the line that many of the programs available through its iPlayer service are only available to UK viewers. Of course, that's easy to circumvent using a VPN that allows those outside the UK to access content as if they were in the country. The BBC has finally woken up to this fact, and drawn exactly the wrong conclusion about what it should do, as TorrentFreak (TF) reports:
Over the past several days TF has received several reports from VPN users who can no longer access iPlayer from UK-based VPN servers.
Instead of gracefully accepting the reality that geoblocking makes no sense in a world where VPNs allow users to appear to be more or less wherever they wish, the BBC has decided to try to block such access, including VPNs used by UK license-payers:
"BBC iPlayer TV programmes are available to play in the UK only," is the notice they receive instead.
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 [in the UK] open but advises regular users to disconnect their VPN service in advance if they want to access iPlayer.
In our post-Snowden world, where the use of a VPN is becoming ever-more prudent, the BBC has just provided a strong disincentive for doing so in the UK. That's really shabby treatment for BBC license-payers, who ought to be allowed to access content in a secure manner. It's also bad news for everyone online, since the more widely VPNs are deployed, the less using one marks you out for special attention by government intelligence agencies. What the BBC should have done here is see the desire of people outside the UK to view its programs as a great opportunity to meet an evident need -- and to generate extra income.