I’m a self confessed News addict, wherever I go I need to get my fix of the news everyday.  Years ago, this was very difficult when you were travelling – no radio channels (except the wonderful World Service), only local TV channels and of course no internet.   I well remember paying 10 times the cover price for a rubbish English Newspaper in a Cairo hotel in the 1980’s because I was so desperate, even then the paper was nearly a week old!

Of course this has changed greatly in the last few years, we all carry around laptops, tablets and smartphones which just need a half way decent wireless connection to access the internet.   You never really need to be completely out of touch now, even satellite connections can help in those particularly hard to reach places.   However in reality there are not many places in the world that you can’t find some sort of internet connection.   Further more most large News organisations broadcast their news bulletins online so location shouldn’t be an issue to keep up to date with your local and national news.

However, unfortunately this isn’t actually the case as you’ve probably discovered.  When I travel outside the UK, none of the UK news broadcasts are available to me because they are restricted to people only in the UK.  This is very frustrating as it’s the only time I’d actually watch the news online but I’m not allowed access.

The restriction I presume is to do with licensing agreements or more likely maximizing profits.  The restriction is basically enforced based on your IP address, that unique number you are assigned when you connect to the internet.   The BBC checks for a UK IP address, NBC checks for a US address and so on.   fortunately there is a way to circumvent this as you can see in this short video explaining how to watch the BBC News live online –

It’s ridiculous we need to do this but I’m afraid it’s increasingly how the internet works. Big businesses make money by something called price discrimination – charging different prices to different markets and to do this they need to split us all up. Using IP addresses is a way of enforcing these boundaries, and selling the same things worldwide at the maximum cost possible.

It’s not only the news, most of the big media sites restrict, block or filter based on your location. For example, my global Netflix subscription won’t work in many countries because of a lack of licensing agreements. It seems to make a huge difference if I watch Netflix in my home or in a cafe in Istanbul! Fortunately changing your IP address bypasses this restriction, too.

Further Reading:

James Greenhoff, How to Access BBC iPlayer Outside UK