BBC iPlayer bug continues to block Virgin Media Broadband Customers across the UK

A major software bug is blocking Virgin Media Broadband internet customers from accessing the BBC’s catch-up iPlayer service.

Having been blocked from accessing content I’ve paid for, for over 48 hours, I finally managed to get someone at BBC iPlayer technical support to acknowledge the seriousness of the issue.

Peter Corr, at 0370 9000 223, whilst appreciating that Virgin Media’s position is that they have not issued a new range of IP addresses in over 12 months, did intimate to me that the vast majority of technical faults he deals with, are to do with the BBC’s IP checking algorithm particularly among Virgin Media and AOL customers—which suggests that this isn’t an isolated or a particularly rare problem.

The blocking software the BBC uses is intended to block non-UK viewers from accessing content only available to the licence fee paying British public.

The iPlayer service was still available to me on Thursday the 12th of March 2009. Since my logs show that Virgin Media last renewed by IP lease 6 days, 14 hrs and 9 minutes ago, it has to be presumed that it is the BBC who, in the last three days at least, have updated their so-called killfile to denote Virgin Media IP address ranges, which are legally entitled to access BBC content from within the British Isles, as if they are in fact outside of the country and therefore barred.

From a compliance point of view, BBC Radio Tees agree with me that, especially that this should happen over the Red Nose Day weekend and that no high level iPlayer technical support staff should be available, was particularly unfortunate. It was also suggested that Judy Tate, BBC Radio Tees Morning show producer, available on 01642 340 665 or 01624 225511, might be interested in taking calls, if the issue has not been resolved as of Monday morning.

Stay tuned.

EDIT: March 17, 2009 12:32 PM

If anything, it’s getting worse. Spoke to someone at BBC iPlayer tech support who again suggested that Virgin Media are to blame for the erroneously updated white list, despite that two separate calls to Virgin Media yesterday confirmed that the last occasion on which Virgin updated their list to the BBC was November of last year.

On top of that, I am now unable to view anything other than the International version of the entire BBC on-line network. Previously this only affected iPlayer, now I am unable to subscribe to podcasts or view the UK version of

The international version of should not appear to visitors with a UK IP address


15 comments on “BBC iPlayer bug continues to block Virgin Media Broadband Customers across the UK

  1. Permaculture: Correct—but it is, by iPlayer Tech supports admission, one of the most common forms of complaint they receive—so there is an issue to be addressed here. On principal we are paying for a 24/7 service, under the terms of the licence from the government with the BBC Trust and it isn’t being fulfilled.

  2. Jim, did you read the page that the error message links to? It states that you should first call with your ISP. Did you do this before ringing all and sundry, or did you call the people that the BBC pages suggest you actually call?

  3. Morden:
    My current IP address was leased to me on the 10th of November 2008 and it expires on the 20th of March 2009. BBC iPlayer had been working up until Thursday the 12th of March. QED the BBC banned an IP address which had been leased to a UK license holder for over four months without checking with the ISP who issued the address first.

  4. “the BBC banned an IP address which had been leased to a UK license holder for over four months without checking with the ISP who issued the address first.”

    A statement from someone who doesn’t really fully understand how things work, methinks.

    1. The BBC, with most internet rights holders, have a requirement to restrict their content within a geographic region — in this case, the UK.
    2. The BBC get one of their technology partners to provide another of their technology partners with a list of IP addresses, verified and confirmed with the various ISPs. As the ISPs have a vested interest in ensuring that this data is accurate, obviously these guys have to talk to each other, otherwise they’ll end up having to field lots of unnecessary support calls.
    3. The IP address wasn’t leased to “a UK license holder”. It was leased to a Virgin Media customer — that doesn’t, by default, make you “a UK license holder”. And, moreover, the IP address isn’t your “property”, it belongs to Virgin Media.

    So, it’s unlikely to be a “BBC iPlayer bug” — it’s simply that the technology partner who provides the list of IP addresses has, in this case, most likely failed to include the subnet range in which your IP address sits in the “whitelist”.

    Oh, and I’m pretty sure that nobody involved calls them “killfiles”. If anything, they use a “whitelist” (

  5. Kill file is a UseNet term I felt applied, but you’re right white list would be better. Similarly, I should have prefaced the article with a little background on rights protection and why the BBC regularly need to update the white list.

    What I don’t understand, however, is why you would assume I am, “someone who doesn’t really fully understand how things work”.

    I have been blogging on the technical difficulties with iPlayer since before it was launched. I appreciate that the phrasing used in the above reply, about leasing to a UK licence holder was a little awkward, but the fact remains that an IP address which was previously on the white list was erroneously removed, or otherwise filtered, without the BBC first contacting Virgin Media and other UK ISPs, which would have established that it belonged to a range of customers with UK addresses.

    As for the bug in question, I have had a total of three BBC iPlayer technical support staff admit to me that this is a BBC issue and not Virgin (or AOL customers who are also affected). Which rather undermines your, again incorrect assertions on my grasp of the issue, or that I didn’t read the help documentation on the BBC iPlayer support site, before contacting the corporation.

    If you are able to explain why it takes the BBC four days and counting, to edit a text file, please feel free to contribute further. Otherwise, I thank you for your input and suggest you come back when you have something more constructive to add.

  6. Hi Jim

    This should now be fixed, as the BBC has re-classified the IP Address Range in question to fix the problem in their IP Address database.

    Can you let us know if there’s any further problems please?



    Alex Brown
    Senior Product Manager, Internet Products
    Virgin Media

  7. I’m afraid Charlotte you’ll have to spend an awful long time on hold to both the BBC and Virgin to get them to fix this. Neither of them are taking responsibility for it. Please let me know how you get on.

  8. Hi,

    I’ve just become a Virgin media customer after many years as either Tiscali or Talk Talk. I had no idea that this kind of problem occurred else I would’ve stayed a Tiscali or Talk Talk customer!!

    So there’s basically nothing that can be done in order to resolve this issue?? I was beginning to think there was something ‘fishy’ going on when ALL other catch up TV websites (4OD, ITVPlayer) work fine?!

    Looks like I’ll be making sure I watch the BBC shows and catching up elsewhere on the web!


    If there is any solution to this can someone let me know?


  9. I am now experiencing a similar problem where I cannot view or listen to any content on the BBC website – could this be related. I have gone through uninstalling and reinstalling Flash and all sorts of software with no joy. Did this issue get solved?

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