How to Watch BBC iPlayer, ITV, and Channel 4 Using a Proxy Outside the UK
So you want to stream your favorite British programs online...
...but unfortunately, you're outside the UK. Never fear - there are several ways around that. The most important thing to know is that, when services like BBC iPlayer and Channel 4 say they are only available to viewers inside the UK, what this really means is that they are only available to servers inside the UK. Where you as an individual are located doesn't have to matter, as long as you can get access to a server in the UK. Thankfully, there are plenty of methods, both paid and free, that can get you this kind of access. Once you re-route your Internet connection through a UK server, your IP address will not longer identify your actual location, but will instead appear to be coming from within the United Kingdom. Below I provide a list of some of the most popular methods for accessing "proxy" servers in the UK and obtaining a UK IP address in order to watch the content you want.
FYI - there are a lot of articles out there that try to use scare tactics to discourage folks from choosing free options. Usually you can tell pretty quickly that these writers have an agenda, often a specific product they're selling, so take what they say with a grain of salt. Yes, free options can take a little more tech savvy, but it's really not that difficult once you get the hang of it, and as long as you have a good virus protection, stay smart, and keep your wits about you on the web, the risk is not that big.
**A note about accessing Channel 4: for some reason it's a little harder to get proxy servers to work on the Channel 4 official site. Thankfully now Channel 4 programs are offered on Youtube, so it may be a little easier for you to first set up a proxy then head on over to Youtube to watch your content.
IMPORTANT! Always be sure to disconnect from your VPN or proxy before logging in to sites that expect you to be coming from inside your home country, such as banks, social networking sites, online stores, etc. If you don't, the site may think someone from the UK phished your account, and they'll lock it down. It's a small fiasco you could live without.
Note: This option is only available for PC users. Mac users can skip to the next module.
Expat Shield is a pretty reliable free service for PC users that automatically connects you to a UK server and assigns you an IP address. When I'm on my Windows computer, I prefer this method, but unfortunately, I can't use it on my Mac.
Normally, Expat Shield will hook you up with a good proxy IP, but now and then you wind up with a dud. If that happens, just disconnect and try again until you get one that works well and isn't crawling at a snail's pace.
Go to their site to download a free copy of the software. It downloads and installs to your hard drive. Once it's installed, you can click the icon and it will immediately open a window in your default browser, at which point it will connect you to a server. Once you're connected, you're free to go get your content.
This is my preferred method for Mac users. It's a Firefox plugin that allows you to input proxy IP addresses of your choosing and get connected. It'll require a little more work than Expat Shield, but you'll have the benefit of being able to pick which IP address you want to use. You can download the plugin here. Check out the video below for a walk-through on configuring and using FoxyProxy once you've installed it, or follow the detailed instructions on the FoxyProxy website itself (it's super helpful).
Downloading, Configuring, and Using FoxyProxy
Other Free VPN/Proxy Services
When it comes to other free services, there are a few decent ways you can go. That said, you'll still have to be careful what you choose, and what kinds of data you send through the proxy after you're connected. Because the services are free, there's no way to ensure that your information would be entirely safe. For this reason, avoid entering sensitive information anywhere (including credit cards, bank info, social security numbers, etc) while you're connected to a free vpn or proxy server. There are a lot of creeps out there.
Ok, enough doom and gloom. If you want to go totally free, you might have to work a little harder than you would if you had a paid service (obviously), but it's not that complicated. One good strategy is to combine a service like FoxyProxy with the many lists of free proxy servers available online. Surf for a good free proxy, then input the IP address and Port number into FoxyProxy and you're rollin'. You should bookmark several lists of free servers, as they tend to change and fluctuate in their availability/reliability. You might need to try a few before you get a fast, stable connection, but if you keep at it, you'll probably find a few decent servers you can rotate among. Here are several websites that provide lists of free proxy servers:
Hide My Ass.com (They offer a paid service, but they also provide a free list of UK proxies)
Free Proxy Lists.com
Free Web Proxy List.com
You can also use a free web-based proxy, where you visit a site, then use that site to surf the Web. If you go this route, be sure you're using a proxy based in the UK; otherwise, you won't have control over the location of your new IP address. Again, don't use these kinds of services for any situations where you'll be entering private information. Also, if you see advertisements bordering the page while you surf, that's actually a good thing; it means the person who set up the site is probably legitimate. If the service is advert-free and running too smoothly, you'll know something is fishy. Proxy.org has a large list of free web proxies, but you'll have to make sure you select one from the UK.
The best way to see what works for you is to try several different strategies and do a search of your own for free proxies beyond the suggestions I've provided.
Paid VPN/Proxy Services
For a fee (anywhere from under $10 to over $20), you can get a more reliable, and safer VPN experience. Paid VPN clients not only offer you a wide selection of proxy connections, but they also usually encrypt your data and provide you with additional security measures. If you'll only be using a proxy to watch BBC or Channel 4, you probably don't need a paid service unless you really don't want to mess with techie details. However, if you think you'll be needing proxy IP addresses for a lot of your Internet activities, and if you'll be needing to enter sensitive data while using a proxy server or just need guaranteed security for any reason, this is the way to go. Here is a short list of good paid services (though a quick search will provide you with even more):
Hide My Ass
Cyber Ghost (They also have a limited free version available)
Generally you'll be able to choose which IP addresses you want to use with these services, so once you've signed up, just point the VPN client at a server from the UK and have at it!