Semantic schmantic - all I want is my TV

BT has always loved to play the funky sci-fi uncle. Every so often, it wheels out a futurologist to promote either the thunderingly obvious ("In the future, people will use mobile phones even more!

BT has always loved to play the funky sci-fi uncle. Every so often, it wheels out a futurologist to promote either the thunderingly obvious ("In the future, people will use mobile phones even more!") or the eye-wateringly absurd ("We'll carry our souls in a matchbox and be adopted by space herrings called Trevor!").

Sometimes, it unbolts the blast doors at Martlesham Heath - sorry, Adastra Park - and leads the subterranean denizens, blinking incomprehendingly, into daylight. That can be particularly tragic. They start to describe something they did years ago, and we suddenly realise it was a world-beating invention that BT never had the cojones to deploy in case it harmed existing revenues.

This time, BT wants to get into Interactive New Media. You may remember interactive new media - CD-ROMs and all that - from its previous brief yet disasterous encounter with reality back in the frou-frou 1980s (hey, production, can we get Boy George in to do a talking head about Grolier Mulitmedia Encyclopedia on a bed of Gary Numan? Ta.)

BT thinks we're ready for more. It's invented shape-shifting TV, which has each aspect of a programme characterised according to its role. The idea, near as I can make out, is that the viewer can fine tune a programme according to their tastes and interests, with some software doing a special cut on the fly.

Where to start? First, let's think about authoring tools. Is the poor programme maker going to have to shoot an infinite number of different combinations? Who's going to extract the narrative data, and who's going to impose the schema? Then, there's the history of interactive narratives: in the words of the youth of America, the most acute critics of media output - "they suck the big one".

Finally, what BT is doing is constructing a mutable metanarrative. Students of the post-modern know what this means - as Jean-Fran