EU Copyright Rules will Enable iPlayer Abroad

Last Updated on May 29, 2023

BBC EU Access

Update – unfortunately the European access to BBC iPlayer is unlikely to happen now.  The European Digital market will obviously not include the UK at the present time.  If the UK rejoined the European Single Market (fingers crossed!) then it’s likely it would also take part in the digital market too.

The BBC iPlayer has always been restricted to people physically based in the UK. However this might soon change with some new proposals for transforming the digital market in the European Union. It has always seemed slightly unfair that as soon as a BBC license fee payer leaves the UK then their access to the BBC over the internet is cut too. It’s the same across many other media organisations too, leave the UK and you’ll lose access to your Sky Go and Netflix subscriptions too.

The problem is that although the EU has brought down the barriers of movement and trade within the Unions, the digital market has been left segmented. Companies still routinely operate profit maximisation tactics online by blocking access to prices and goods based on their physical location. Simply put there are significant barriers to digital goods within the European Union which is hopefully set to change with some new proposal to create a single digital market.


For the BBC iPlayer this has huge implications meaning that it would have to overhaul it’s service to ensure that if you paid the license fee, then you would be able to access the BBC iPlayer service anywhere in Europe. For hundreds of thousands of people who travel or reside outside the United Kingdom but still pay their TV license this will come as a huge relief. Of course there are still plenty of options for Non-UK residents as we explain here at but nonetheless this should not be necessary when you’ve already paid for the service.

The same situation happens with companies like Netflix and Sky, the blocks are normally based on copyright restrictions in individual countries however these would seem to be unenforceable if the EU proposals are passed. It’s not quite time to cancel that VPN subscription though, the earliest dates if the proposals are implemented are likely to be around 2017. Firstly though the member countries have to approve them, many are worried that certain countries like France who like to protect their cultures from outside influences may object.

The other worry is that it will be a very expensive and potentially difficult technical challenge particularly for the BBC. They would need to incorporate some way to authenticate a BBC license fee payer irrespective of their location. This could be more difficult that it sounds, it will certainly need something more than simply inputting a license number before viewing. The other platforms are slightly more geared up for International viewing and less of a change would be needed for something like Netflix which to some extent operates a global subscription model already.

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