Watching the BBC iPlayer outside of the UK, safely and reliably

The BBC iPlayer has been around for a few years now and is an excellent service for catching up with British shows online. Its recent (May 2010) design changes are a welcome change as well. This tutorial shows you how to watch the iPlayer using Firefox.

Step 1

Download and install the latest stable release of Tor using the default options. Tor is a project that allows you to route your internet traffic through various servers around the world, either for anonymity, or for overcoming geo-restrictions.

Step 2

We now need to gather a list of servers with “exit nodes” in the UK, meaning that internet traffic routed through these servers appears to come from the UK. Go to Scroll all the way to the bottom of the screen and select “Select Custom / Advanced Query Options”. From there, select yes for Exit and under Advanced Search, select Country Code Equals GB. Take note of the list of servers (router names) that are shown on the next page, ignoring the Unnamed or Unknown ones. If that website is not working, use any of the following mirrors:

Step 3

Go to Start Menu and open All Programs -> Vidalia Bundle -> Tor -> torcc (Mac users need to go to Library > Vidalia > torrc). This will open the Tor config file. Scroll all the way (it may be blank) to the bottom and enter the following lines, replacing [servers] with the list of servers you obtained in step 2. The server names need to be comma separated (i.e. server1,server2,server3)

StrictExitNodes 1
ExitNodes [servers]

Save the file and exit your text editor.

Step 4

Install the Foxy Proxy addon for Firefox. Once you have restarted FireFox, left-click on the FoxyProxy icon the status bar at the bottom right of the window. Select Add New Proxy and go to the General tab. Give it a name like Tor. Under the Proxy Details tab, enter for the host or IP address and port 9050. Check the SOCKS proxy checkbox and make sure that you select SOCKS v5. Now move over to the URL Patterns tab and add a new pattern. Give it a name like BBC and enter ** in the URL pattern. Click OK and exit out of all the option screens.

Step 5

Launch Vidalia. After a few seconds, it should say “Connected to the Tor Network” and the onion should turn green.

Step 6

Now go to the iPlayer and check to see whether it works. You may occasionally have to revise your server list as servers come and go.

32 thoughts on “Watching the BBC iPlayer outside of the UK, safely and reliably”

  1. egt says:

    i dont understand, what i need tp pu in torrc file

    1. Dave says:

      Once you get your list of servers from one of the websites listed, you’ll put it with the other code shown. An example of what would go in your torrc file would be:

      StrictExitNodes 1
      ExitNodes server1,server2,server3

      where server1, server2 and server3 are three of the servers that you found on the Tor server search.

  2. andre says:

    ive done everything you said but bbc player tell me i need update my Flash player

  3. andre says:

    ive done all this and bbc player tell me to update the flash player i have instaled it 10X with nothing

    1. Dave says:

      I also experienced this problem once. I had to completely remove Firefox and Flash and start from scratch for it to work. Not sure why it happened, or if it will work for you. Hope you can get it to work

  4. qvazar says:

    This is fine after following your instructions, but unfortunately Firefox 3.1 does not accept FoxyProxy??
    What has happend? Any tip

    1. Dave says:

      I’m not too sure why the compatibility isn’t there, but the latest version of Firefox is 3.6. Is there any particular reason you haven’t updated? 3.1 is really quite old now

  5. James says:

    Great post mate but I was wondering why channel4 on demand won’t work with the same settings

    1. Dave says:

      Did you change the URL pattern so that it reflects the 4OD URL pattern? It should work the same for Channel 4. Did you get the BBC to work?

  6. Hassan says:

    thank u thank u thank u… i went through so many detailed tutorials but found urs by fat the most precise and effective, especially since i use a mac :)
    would love to try this on

    1. Dave says:

      Well, you’re welcome. Doing it with ABC should be very easy – just make sure you are using a US exit server and that your URL patterns are in place for (unless you want to do it manually)

  7. Tom Watson says:

    I followed your instructions to the letter but all I get is the following
    Tor is not an HTTP Proxy

    It appears you have configured your web browser to use Tor as an HTTP proxy. This is not correct: Tor is a SOCKS proxy, not an HTTP proxy. Please configure your client accordingly.
    What should I do to correct this?
    Many thanks

    1. Look at Step 4. Did you check the SOCKS Proxy checkbox?

  8. nohaybanda says:

    Hi Dave,
    thanx for writing this.
    for me it doesn’t quite work though…when i get everything configured and running
    the iplayer tells me i need to install flash, just in case, i did update manually …so i do have the latest version installed.. yet it keeps asking me to install it…
    do you know why and any workaround this problem. i noticed you mentioning reinstalling firefox and starting from scratch but this is not a good option form me since there has been a lot of tweaking , add ons, millions of bookmarks , site settings etc…that will take some (loooong)time to restore to what i have now.


    1. I’m afraid I don’t know. If it’s telling you to update Flash Player, I can’t see that that’s a problem with the proxy connection.

  9. nohaybanda says:

    in alternative i tried downloading some content, i am on XP pc and i have the bbc iplayer desktop installed, but after showing me the options of download it says its gathering some information, then this pop up window closes and nothing happens…have you had any success downloading anything?

    1. I had some success downloading iPhone content but downloading full programs was slow and unpredictable for me

  10. nohaybanda says:

    thanx for your lightning fast responses ; )

    the iplayer desktop content goes to a page that is asking me to isntall flash again…hm?!

    the iphone content option goes into smoke and nothing happens…
    maybe the folks at bbc found you post, just the way i did and blocked some of this method?
    the moment i disable tor i get the flash working but of course not available in my area…

    or mybe its the tor not configured right or having issues with firefox( i have the latest version)
    because you tube is telling me the same thing now need to upgrade to flash 10! bummer!

    i guess its not gonna work for me…for now :)

    1. Well, I used a special program to try and download the iPhone content. I forget what it was called now, but it wasn’t the BBC iPlayer Downloader. Hope you’re able to find a workaround – let me know if you do!

  11. haybanda says:

    hey dave i got it working!!! :)
    …it was the torbutton settings…by default it blocks all plugins and flash content. thats why also youtube didnt work either …

    here is the link in case other people run into the same configuration issue of tor:

    many thanx for the tuttorial!

    1. Ah excellent! Really glad to hear it. Thanks for coming back and providing the update.

  12. Costar951 says:

    Thank you very much for your tutorial. But when I try to Watch BBC live this message comes up : “This content doesn’t seem to be working. Try again later”. Can you please help me.
    Thanks again.

    1. That’s usually the message I get before I even turn Vidalia (Tor) on. It sounds like you haven’t configured it correctly, or perhaps aren’t even running Tor at all?

  13. Costar951 says:

    I think Tor is configured correctly the “Onion” turns green. The problem occurs only with live programs, I can watch the rest. Thanks for your help.

    1. Hmmm interesting. Let me know if you ever get this resolved. I’d be interested to know a resolution for this problem.

  14. Gatsby says:

    Hi Dave,

    Thanks for the tutorial. Whenever I try and open Tor I get the following error message, after adding the text per step 3 to torcc.

    Apr 10 03:28:06.889 [Notice] Tor v0.2.2.23-alpha (git-b85eb949b528f4d7). This is experimental software. Do not rely on it for strong anonymity. (Running on Darwin i386)
    Apr 10 03:28:06.890 [Warning] The configuration option ‘StrictExitNodes’ is deprecated; use ‘StrictNodes’ instead.
    Apr 10 03:28:06.890 [Warning] Failed to parse/validate config: Unknown option ‘ExitNodes[ephemer3,hands,PPrivCom036,PPrivCom037,PPrivCom038,st0nerhenge]’. Failing.
    Apr 10 03:28:06.891 [Error] Reading config failed–see warnings above.

    Would be great if you could help with what I’m doing wrong.


    1. Did you try changing the code that you put into torrc to use StrictNodes instead of StrictExitNodes? I’ve not encountered this problem, so I’m not sure what the issue is.

  15. Richard says:

    Thanks for writing this tutorial.

    I’m stuck working in Ukraine with the worst TV in the world probably (sorry anyone from UA reading this).

    I’m pretty advanced in years and not so clever with this stuff. Wondered if you could help me watch UK TV using Chrome so I don’t have to download Fire fox and start learning from scratch.

    Many thanks, Richard

  16. Chezus says:

    Hey Dave, not sure if you’re still reading this. Anyways so I got Tor just for this so I don’t know too much about it. I don’t have a torcc file in my Tor folder? Is that something I have to make?

    1. There should be a sample file in there, but if there isn’t, then yes you’ll need to create one. Also bear in mind that this tutorial is old now, so the default location for torrc may have changed.

  17. dario says:

    bbc iplayer doesnt work any more with TOR. any suggestions ?

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