It's life Jim, but not as we know it


How to get the BBC iPlayer running when you live outside of the UK

(subtext: Get the World's most famous detective on your favourite browser)

The new series of Sherlock has started on the BBC. If you live outside of the UK and you are too impatient to wait for your local TV content provider to host it for you - then fear not !! These simple instructions will get you up and running. In addition to the iPlayer you can access most of the other UK TV channels using the same method. Note: you can use the same method to access content in other countries - such as Hulu in the U.S.

How it works:  In simple terms, the BBC iPlayer, like other players, perform a check to determine whether your internet access is originating from the UK.  So the trick is to ensure that your access to the BBC website will originate from the UK.

First you are going to use a free piece of open source software that was designed to keep your internet access anonymous. You will add a setting that will ensure that the software makes use of servers in the UK whenever making requests to the internet. You will add one final setting to your browser to configure how it connects to the web and then you should be done.

The following instructions will how you how to get the whole thing running on Google Chrome on the Mac. The steps for Windows/Linux and other browsers are the same.

Step 1: Download tor from this site :  The download button should detect your operating system. For Macs the direct link is here

Step 2: Install tor. Find tor and run it. (on the Mac it is called ""). This will launch the Vidalia control panel.


If all goes well, the control panel should connect to the Tor network and you should see the following status:

Once you are connected, the web browser bundled with Tor will appear and carry out a check to ensure you are online anonymously. Do not close the browser just yet.

Step 3: Get the port number from the Tor bundled browser. This is required for Step 7.  The bundled Tor browser is a cut down Firefox image that does not have Flash player installed (required for iPlayer).  You can install it if you want or use another browser. To use another browser we need to copy one of the Tor browser settings.
From the bundled Tor web browser menu select Preferences. Then press the Network tab.

Press the Settings option. This shows you the default settings for the bundled Tor browser

You can see that the browser is going to talk to Tor using localhost ( on port 53742. It is important to note that on your machine the port will be different. It will have a different setting everytime you run Tor.  Make a note of the 5 digit port number. (Don't use 53742 unless your setting has the same number). We will come back to this in Step 7.
Press Cancel to close the window and then close the Preferences panel.

Step 4: Now you are going to set up tor so that it uses servers specifically in the UK. This step is straightforward - so hang in there.
On the Vidalia control panel click "View the Network". The Tor network map will open.

This shows you a list of the servers that are available all around the world. You can sort the list of countries by clicking the column (header) for the flags. Once the list is sorted by flag - scroll down until you see the Union Jack (British Flag). The "relays" are the servers you are going to use to relay requests to the BBC website. Make a note of 4 of the relays by typing their names in a text editor. (Note: if you are outside of the US and want to access hulu - then you can pick a US relay...). You pick several incase one of the servers is not running or has poor performance...

Once you have made a note of the relays - Close the tor network map.

Step 5: Now you need to set up your tor connection to use those relays.
On the Vidalia control panel press "Settings". The press the "Advanced" tab.

In the middle panel entitled "Tor Configuration file" press the "Edit current torrc" button.

At the bottom of the list of settings add the following two lines. Replace #R1, #R2, #R3 with the names of the relays that you picked and wrote in the text editor in Step 4.

StrictExitNodes 1
ExitNodes  #R1, #R2, #R3, #R4

For example if I had picked out the following relays TorLand1, StickItToTheMan, obelix - I would type the following:

StrictExitNodes 1
ExitNodes  TorLand1, StickItToTheMan, obelix

(StrictExitNodes makes Tor use the list of Relays that you provide).
Now press OK to confirm the changes and close the window. Press OK to close the Settings Window.

Step 6. Restart tor by pressing the Stop Tor button.  Once Tor has stopped - press Start Tor. When Tor has started successfully - then get excited - you're almost there !

Step 7: Now set up Chrome to user Tor when it accesses the internet. You need to change the way your browser connects to the internet. To do this you are going to need the port setting that you copied in Step 3.
Open Google Chrome.
Click the wrench on the toolbar, then click "Preferences" from the menu options.
On the Preferences page - click "Under the Hood" on the left navigation panel.

In the section marked "Network", click the "Change Proxy Settings" button. This will launch the Network panel on the Mac.
Click the "Proxies" tab. Select "SOCKS Proxy". Tick the SOCKS Proxy to enable it.
In the SOCKS Proxy Server field enter
In the field marked ":" enter the port number. This is the port number you copied down in Step 3. In my example I would enter 53742.  You will enter another 5-digit number.

Press OK. Press Apply to close the Network settings dialog.
Now Google Chrome is set up to talk to Tor running locally on your machine on port 53742 (in my example).

To check that Chrome is Tor enabled - enter the following URL into your Chrome browser:

If all is OK - you should see a familiar looking screen....

Step 8:  View !!  You made it ! OK - now reload the BBC iPlayer page. You will no longer see any warning messages and you can now press the play icon.

Sit back with a cup of tea and enjoy !!

Final notes
#1: When you have finished watching the programmes - don't forget to switch off the Network setting. You just need to uncheck the settings in your network System preferences.

#2: When you want to watch the iPlayer again - remember to get the new port setting when you restart Tor, and put this in your SOCKS Proxy setting.

#3: You are not limited to the BBC either. You can access online content from ITV and Channel 4 in the UK - but also content from any part of the planet. Just remember to change the relay for the host country.

Have fun !!  (I really do recommend watching Sherlock )