- The Government has unveiled plans to lift the ban on BT from broadcasting entertainment programming.
The move, which will require new legislation, will allow BT and other telecoms companies to compete head to head with the cable industry.
The president of the board of trade, Margaret Beckett, confirmed Labour's pre-election commitment to allow BT to provide mass market entertainment throughout the UK by the beginning of 2001.
This is a year earlier than the previous government had intended, after its in 1991 decision to ban BT from competing with the fledgling cables companies until 2002. The move was designed to allow the cable industry to flourish.
However, BT has said that it does not intend to enter the mass entertainment market. Instead it will concentrate on providing specialist broadcasting services such as video-on-demand and internet type services.
Although BT will have to wait almost four years before it can compete with cable companies, it and other telecoms operators will be allowed to offer entertainment services immediately in the 17 per cent of the country not covered by the cable companies.