TV takes stride into future with interactive news: Susan Watts reports on the latest offering from a symbol, formerly known as Prince

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The Independent Online
TELEVISION takes its latest stride into the future today with the launch of the UK's first interactive news service, available to the 200,000 subscribers of the cable TV channel Videotron, broadcasting in London and the South, writes Marianne Macdonald.

Subscribers will be able to use it to call up traffic and weather updates, together with Crimestoppers and community information, during ITV's news round-ups, After 5 (5.10pm - 5.40pm) and London Tonight (6.25pm - 7pm), whose viewers will also be able to use it to watch re-runs of After 5.

The cable service already offers learning programmes, music videos, cartoons and films. Last Friday it began enhanced coverage of the World Cup, offering instant replays, competitions and constantly updated information on players.

Videotron hopes to widen its news initiative with Carlton and LWT by allowing viewers to talk back via their handsets. This would make possible instant viewer polls on political or social issues. In coming years, it hopes to offer home shopping by means of a smart card swiped through the handset, on-line personal banking, electronic mail and travel and ticket reservations.

Next month, trials will start in the Midlands of an interactive TV network due to become available next year at a monthly fee to all viewers, not just those with cable. Like Videotron, Interactive Network's Two Way TV will offer additional sporting information and the chance to participate in TV quiz shows by means of a handset.

The company hopes to provide 30 hours of interactive television a week on ITV and BBC.

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