UK telecoms giant BT is at last poised is at last poised to move into broadcast entertainment, after being barred from doing so in the early 90s by John Major's Conservative administration.

The ten-year ban - which some observers believe was imposed to placate US TV and cable interests - was ostensibly introduced to prevent BT, a virtual monopoly, from stifling competition.

Prior to the sudden ban a successful eighteen-month pilot scheme had been trialled in Colchester, Essex. This enabled BT subscribers to receive broadcast TV, video on demand and a range of sophisticated online services.

Until the goverment reneged on its compact with BT, the understanding was that the latter would get the green light to proceed with entertainment services - in return for which it would install fibre-optic cabling throughout the UK, thereby enabling nationwide broadband availability.

The Major government's political volte face opened the door to an all-American invasion spearheaded by News Corporation's BSkyB with NTL and Telewest in its wake. But even in the face of this political setback, a handful of senior BT executives paraphrased the immortal words of Governor Schwartzenegger's alter ego: "We'll be back," they vowed.

Which as of today, they are, with the announcement of a deal with Microsoft that will enable broadband phone lines to download television programmes and films. BT is also in discussions with programme-makers, including the BBC, about launching the new service.

Says BT Retail chief executive, Ian Livingston: ""TV-over-broadband services will play an important role in BT's triple-play offering for consumers."

He continued: "Our proposed complementary approach of over-the-air broadcast and broadband-delivered video-on-demand, interactivity and enhanced support is the perfect solution and complements existing TV propositions already in the UK market."

A deal with the BBC-BSkyB Freeview digital terrestrial TV platform is still under discussion, while further trials of the new TV broadband service will shortly begin with around 100 BT employees.

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff