The BBC and why Geo IP location is stupid

Submitted as a complaint to the BBC complaints service:

I am an Englishman living and working in Dublin, Ireland. As such, I receive BBC channels via my Sky subscription, including BBC One and Two. As you broadcast your channels free-to-air I can also happily receive BBC Three, Four, News, Parliament and all BBC radio stations via Astra on my Sky box. However because your use of Geo IP location means that you consider me to be, quite correctly, outside of the UK when visiting the BBC home page I notice that the TV Channels widget shows me:

* BBC World News
* BBC America
* BBC Prime
* BBC Canada
* BBC Kids (Canada)
* BBC Food
* BBC Arabic
* BBC Entertainment
* Animal Planet
* People+Arts
* UKTV Australia
* BBC Knowledge
* BBC Lifestyle

Which is about as useful to me as a chocolate fireguard. If I go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/tv/ then I see the same, with a small box at the bottom showing links to the regular BBC UK channels.

In the two years that I’ve been living all of 100km from the UK mainland (a gap, by the way, that your AM broadcasts manage to bridge allowing me to continue to listen to 5 Live in my car on the way to and from work!) I’ve become used to the complete and utterly indiscriminate nature of Geo IP location technology as used by the BBC to control access to content for the UK licence payer. I’ve become used to its use in sweeping editorial changes to the BBC News site meaning that I can no longer choose what news is most important for me (because, as currently displayed, the beheading of a teacher in the Philippines is NOT more important to me than the story about the DUP’s dismissal of PSNI reserve abolishment plans shown in the same position on the UK front page!) I also accept the fact that the provision of expensive services such as iPlayer should only be available to licence holders. What does boil my bag is the black and white decision making that this technology imposes. You are either UK or not, and if not then hey, the entire world is lumped together in one group who obviously share the same interests and access to services. One supposes that the very same technology that can tell you when somebody is accessing from within the UK can also tell you (at least as reliably) where they are accessing from when outside the UK. A little customization would go a long way.

You know, I shouldn’t really complain too loudly. You see, I appear to head through some magic portal on the way to work every day, for when I get to my industrial estate on the outskirts of Dublin I am seemingly transported magically back to the UK. I see the UK news; see the uk channels; hell I can even use iPlayer if I wanted to waste my employer’s bandwidth. Never has the sheer lunacy of an access control mechanism based SOLELY on the use of Geo IP location been so comprehensively proved to be stupid. Yes, as you may have guessed, the network connection of my Irish employer pops out onto the internet somewhere in the UK. When, when will you wake up and realise that for the sake of a few development pounds you could provide much more utility to your consumers. For that matter, when will you realise that people outside the UK pay good money to shonky VPN suppliers just to get access to iPlayer and therefore circumvent Geo IP location. I know that you may not be so used to such things with your public sector ancestry, but that is a POTENTIAL REVENUE STREAM for you to exploit. Start offering a subscription model. If Spotify can do it properly I’m sure the combined talents of the BBC can. I’d pay to be able to receive BBC services in the way I want.

Finally, whilst I am on a roll, maybe you could answer a conundrum that I’ve so far failed to resolve. It is a simple question: why do you not care that Sky can make money out of providing your two main channels to customers in Ireland completely legitimately by placing them on their EPG and advertising them without those customers paying as single penny to the BBC in licence fee? We are not dodgy costa-del-ex-pats using a viewing card registered to a UK address, we are legitimate customers availing of your most expensive programming completely for free. Or are we? How do you get your coin from such people? Do you get a percentage from the ROI licence fee? Do Sky pay you? Or is this simply a gaping hole in the policies you otherwise use Geo IP location to so strictly and unashamedly implement?

2 thoughts on “The BBC and why Geo IP location is stupid

  1. And yet worse, as when I try and watch live BBC News from work in the UK, the internet connection pops out in Germany and so I can’t see the UK channels….

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