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There’s encouraging news that the European Union is going to be forcing the way forward in the market for digital services and one of the biggest impacts could be on the BBC iPlayer. As you probably know the BBC iPlayer works wonderfully if you’re actually in the United Kingdom but stops working the moment you try and access it from anywhere else. Which leads to the situation where a BBC license fee payer is blocked simply because they are outside the country, so you can’t watch the News on holiday or keep up with your favorite soaps.
Obviously there’s now a whole range of VPN and IP proxy products available to circumvent the blocks but should it really be necessary for a valid purchaser to use these just because they happen to be out of the country for whatever reason.
The BBC is not alone, virtually every large digital media company on the internet operates under similar restrictions. You can’t watch Hulu or HBO from outside the USA, M6 Replay is blocked outside France and so on. Even supposedly global digital companies do the same, your Netflix account will only work if you are in a country it which it operates, certainly seems a nonsense in this digital world.
EU Proposals are designed to move towards a single European digital market with the idea that if you legally buy content in one country there should be no restrictions on accessing them in any other country. Currently there are all sorts of restrictions on digital content usually fuelled by complex copyright rules and regulations. However these could all be overruled if it became a new right for EU citizens that these digital products were portable across European boundaries.
As it stands it’s just a proposal, the planned implementation if it gains approval is 2017 however we might have to wait a little longer than that. Firstly there are genuine concerns that some countries will not be keen to support this proposal, particularly those who like to protect their own culture and national media.
There are also some powerful and well funded lobby groups who feel that it is a fundamental right to be able to control production and distribution based on specific territories. However of course, they would say that because it enables them to operate profit maximisation techniques by selling for different prices in European regions – certainly not the definition of a single market.
For the BBC there will also be some technical difficulties in implementing a system which allows license fee payers the rights to watch wherever they are in Europe, the current BBC iPlayer has no real authentication system like Netflix or Sky. It is likely that the changes required will take some time, perhaps even beyond the 2017 implementation proposal.
However at least there is hope on the horizon that we will genuinely be able to access digital content internationally without having to use a VPN or Smart DNS that we have legitimately bought, without having to pay individually in each country we want to access it from.