Can You Watch BBC iPlayer Without a TV License

SO here’s a popular question received on this site and I see it asked regularly on sites like Reddit and Quora too.  Is it possible to enjoy the wonderful BBC iPlayer without buying a TV license first?   Now although the answer is quite straight forward, the answer is Yes by the way, it kind of depends on how you’re asking this question.  The question – “Is it technically possible to access BBC iPlayer without purchasing a TV license” is quite different to whether you should watch without buying one.

Now we have no interest in making moral judgements on anyone, so we’re going to answer this from a technical point of view.  Whether anyone does or not is entirely up to them.  However I can assure you at the very moment you’re reading this, several million people are WATCHING BBC iPlayer without a TV license of any sort!

Let’s just stick to the facts and summarize the technical situation.

Is it Possible to Watch BBC iPlayer without a UK TV License?

So here’s one of the drivers of all this speculation – when you try and stream anything from the BBC iPlayer site you’ll usually receive this query before it starts.

Watch BBC iPlayer Without a TV License

It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from, everyone gets this warning when they try and use the BBC’s online TV services.   At this point if you click Yes everything should work fine, if you click No – you’ll be redirected to a page of guidance about the TV license and how to get one.  The question is not checked or enforced, it’s based on the honour system.  From a technical point of view it’s important to point out that these is no technical check or verification to your answer.  Indeed at the moment there’s no real way that the BBC could verify your answer.

So the answer is simple – can you watch BBC iPlayer without a TV license? Yes absolutely, whether you should or not that’s entirely up to you.  There are some important points to consider though, and obviously some people might be worried about the slight fibbing that could be involved.

UK TV License can only be bought in the UK – so if you’re trying to access from abroad and trying to ‘do the right thing’ I’m afraid you won’t get far.  There’s no option for people living outside the UK to purchase a legitimate UK TV license at all.  Shame really as lots of people I’m sure would.

BBC iPlayer and UK TV is blocked from outside the UK – all the major UK TV channels restrict access to their online streaming to people located in the UK.  Although if you read below you can learn how to bypass this very easily.

Getting Caught pretending you have a license – so what’s the chance of getting into trouble by fibbing?  Well if you’re connecting from outside the UK using a VPN then there’s no risk at all unless you run into Broadcasting House and confess.  When you connect via a proxy or VPN then your location is completely hidden anyway. Even if it wasn’t it wouldn’t really matter, most expats have been doing this for many years.  Inside the UK technically you could get caught as they keep a register of all physical addresses without a TV license, although it’s really unlikely.

Using a VPN to Stream BBC iPlayer Abroad

If you’re outside the United Kingdom then having a TV license is irrelevant unless you get passed their country filters. If you’re trying to access BBC iPlayer from physically outside the UK you’ll get blocked before you get to this screen.  There was a project in place as part of the European Digital Market place which would have allowed UK license holders to access the BBC from anywhere in Europe.  However I’m afraid Brexit has stopped this happening on the BBC and other sites like Sky and ITV.

Yet fear not, you can easily watch BBC iPlayer and all the other UK TV channels by hiding your location online.    Here’s how it’s done – just watch this short video explanation and you’ll see how straight forward it is.

It sounds vaguely technical, but it’s very straight forward. Instead of going direct to the BBC iPlayer site, your request is routed through a UK VPN server. You don’t see anything different apart from the site will work perfectly because it thinks you are in the United Kingdom. All web sites will only see the address of the VPN and as long as you keep choosing a UK one then all British TV sites will work.

It’s not difficult, there’s nothing more involved than clicking a button after you install the VPN software. Certainly there’s a small cost to pay for using the VPN service but it’s only a few Euros/dollars and it opens up literally thousands of programmes you can watch online. As well as this using a VPN keeps your internet connection secure and encrypted, it’s something we should all use anyway.

So there it is, you click ‘Yes’ I have got a TV license and everything works ok. Don’t worry, hundreds of thousands of us do it every single day and have been for well over a decade.

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