This week viewers to BBC World News have been watching a series of reports focusing on the Arab uprisings, two years after they first began. Correspondents have been in Damascus, Tunis, Cairo, the Syria-Lebanon border and elsewhere. Their eyewitness TV reporting is accompanied by further explanation and analysis on our website, bbc.com/news. These are expert journalists, with years of experience and knowledge, living the story on behalf of the audience. They demonstrate our commitment to reporting the world, and bringing clarity to complex events.
Until now, however, viewers in the world's biggest TV market, the US, have found it hard to access BBC reporting of this kind. The market is saturated with TV channels, but for the past couple of years we've been very focused on securing widespread carriage on the distribution systems which bring TV into most homes.
So today the BBC is delighted to announce we have agreed to a partnership with the US cable giant - Time Warner Cable - and through this and other deals, a further 10 million homes in the US will have access to BBC World News 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
This means by the end of this year we will be available in 25 million homes, including those in most of the major markets - New York, Washington DC, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston. There is still some way to go before we can say we have reached everyone - but 2012 has been a year of significant breakthroughs for us in the US.
The BBC is already well-known in America through its partnerships with public radio, through the success of our website BBC.com/news, and because of our nightly broadcast on public television fronted by Katty Kay. We believe our brand of high-quality, intelligent and non-partisan journalism has something to offer US audiences, and we're determined to make access to our services as simple as possible.
The timing could not be better. We're just a few weeks away from the first broadcasts of BBC World News from our brand new headquarters in central London. Three new studios, a big investment in production and journalism, and working more closely with BBC journalists working in English and 27 other languages - it's more than just a new home, it's a new start. We're delighted to share that even more widely.
Richard Porter is controller of English at BBC Global News
This week viewers to BBC World News have been watching a series of reports focusing on the Arab uprisings, two years after they first began. Correspondents have been in Damascus, Tunis, Cairo, the Syria-Lebanon border and elsewhere. Their eyewitness TV reporting is accompanied by further explanation and analysis on our website, bbc.com/news. These are expert journalists, with years of experience and knowledge, living the story on behalf of the audience. They demonstrate our commitment to reporting the world, and bringing clarity to complex events.
Today the BBC Trust publishes its findings into an investigation of the funding arrangements for certain programmes broadcast on our international commercial television news channel, BBC World News.
The Trust has concluded that 15 programmes broadcast in our weekend schedule breached the BBC's editorial or sponsorship guidelines.
The programmes concerned were acquired by the channel at low or nominal cost, and around half of them were funded or partly funded by charities, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) or other similar groups.
The Trust found breaches of guidelines in seven programmes relating to conflict of interest; the promotion of a sponsor's activities; the prohibition of sponsorship for current affairs programming; and the way in which funding was credited to ensure transparency for viewers.
The remaining breaches concerned programmes made for the BBC by an independent production company, which failed to disclose to us that it had a financial relationship with the Malaysian government, while producing programmes with a "heavy focus" on Malaysia.
The Trust classifies this as "serious breaches" of its guidelines, and BBC World News fully accepts their findings. We share the Trust's view that the integrity and independence of the BBC's editorial decisions is of paramount importance. We welcome their conclusion that none of the programmes breached requirements for impartiality. But nevertheless, we are determined to learn the lessons from what has gone wrong.
So how did it happen? There is no single, or simple answer. The cases involving Malaysia were serious because we transmitted programmes without being made aware of a conflict of interest by the supplying production company. Eight programmes were broadcast between 2009 and July 2011, with references to Malaysia. Following reports in the Independent newspaper, the production company admitted to the BBC that it represented the Malaysian government through another division of its activities. We didn't know this at the time, and we have now terminated our relationship with this company.
A second conflict of interest arose in another programme about carbon trading, where an association was found between an organisation featured in the programme, and a company which funded the programme production. This conflict was not declared to us at the time of transmission - had we known, we would not have broadcast it.
In the remaining cases examined by the Trust, the issues were primarily related to how we interpreted editorial or sponsorship guidelines. This, again, is something we take very seriously, and today we are announcing new procedures which take full account of the findings.
The Trust did say that no BBC staff had intended to breach guidelines, but there seemed to be a lack of knowledge or genuine confusion about the relevant guidance. Clearly we need to tighten our procedures so that it doesn't happen again.
As a result, we are taking steps to tighten our list of supplying production companies, and to put in place a more rigorous process to approve programme commissions - including further checks on any potential conflicts of interest. We have also undertaken no longer to commission or acquire programmes sponsored by non-commercial organisations, and have stopped taking programmes at low nominal cost. We have re-affirmed that sponsored programming will only be allowed in non-news and current affairs genres, and we will act on the Trust's guidance to take a "strictly prudential view" of what amounts to sponsorship.
These are complex cases, but the principles underlying them are simple. We must not damage the audience's trust in what we broadcast. We know we have some hard work to do to make up for this, but we are determined to do so.
Richard Porter is controller of English at BBC Global News.
On Wednesday evening, TV viewers in the US began to see something new from BBC World News; two bulletins of the best international news from the BBC, more tailored to a US audience and free to air through the American PBS network.
It's the start of a new partnership between us and KCET, the Southern California public television station, with a simple aim. To offer American viewers something they can't get anywhere else.
Fronted by Mike Embley in London, the two programmes are a showcase for the BBC's unrivalled international newsgathering power.
On day one Richard Galpin reported from Georgia as EU monitors arrived to begin observing a Russian withdrawal. From Brussels, our Europe Editor Mark Mardell explained how pressure on European banks was forcing countries to find new ways of safeguarding depositors' money. In Iraq, Hugh Sykes reported on the rise of the Awakening movement - former insurgents now fighting alongside rather than against US forces. And Jon Leyne in Tehran reported on a US phenomenon taking off in Iran - blogging.
The first day also posed us some challenges. How much should we be focussing on events within the US, given that we've pledged to offer something different to the US media? And how much coverage should there be of live events or breaking news? With the Senate debating the "bail-out Bill" while we went on air, both issues came together.
The answer - well if we're putting together a bulletin of the day's main global stories, then it would be perverse to leave out US stories. However, you can expect us to place them in a different context - so last night's Senate coverage was immediately followed by the story out of Europe, which I doubt was receiving much attention elsewhere in the US media. As for live coverage - given that we're offering PBS viewers a speedy round-up in 25 minutes, we won't devote much time to lengthy live coverage of events, but you can expect to see breaking news reported as fast as any other network.
Will the programme prove as popular as before? The early signs are good. More than 80% of US viewers will have access to BBC World News through PBS and we hope the revamped programme will actually deliver a bigger audience to us.
Plus we'll continue to broadcast Matt Frei's World News America programme on BBC America, which is the other part of our two-pronged strategy to best serve the US audience.
By coincidence, it marked its first anniversary on air on Wednesday. In its inaugural year, the programme won a prestigious Peabody Award, signed veteran newsman Ted Koppel as Contributing Analyst and had correspondents reporting first-hand from the scene of numerous international breaking news stories, from the assassination of Benazir Bhutto to the current economic crisis hitting markets across the globe.
"News...important or interesting new happenings." So says the Collins English Dictionary. And from today, BBC World has changed its name to BBC World News. Perhaps it's not the most radical step - indeed some of you may think that's what we're already called. And if you don't, then maybe you're wondering why we're bothering.
But this is a significant change, for two reasons really. One, because a surprisingly large number of viewers we questioned in surveys found it hard to categorise exactly what we are; what we stand for. And second, because we want to be in line with all the changes happening across the BBC - bringing together our news output in radio, TV and online to share one common identity (see Peter Horrocks' blog entry on this subject). In the increasingly-crowded global market-place, it's critical to have a clear brand which stands out from the competition.
Over the years, the mixture of programmes on BBC World has changed significantly. We used to broadcast much more features and other programming (including University Challenge India not too many years ago).
But in the past three years - in response to the clear demand of our viewers - we've gradually increased the focus on to more news and topical programming. For example we now run four editions of the hour-long World News Today, as well as World News America presented from Washington. Later this year there'll be more, and we've also expanded World Business Report and Sport Today.
So for us, the name change is a public declaration of what we have become, and where our future lies. We'll be keeping our most popular programme brands on the channel - Click, Fast Track, Our World, HARDtalk, and the rest. But by changing our name we hope we're just a little bit more clear about what we do, and the values of BBC News we represent.
We've got used to our news being served instantly, with pictures always available from anywhere in the world, and a correspondent appearing at the scene from a live link soon after. It's one of the reasons why the news channels have thrived - we've been able to use digital technology to satisfy the audience demand for instant information.
So what happens when the pictures or the interviews aren't available straight away? We've had two examples this week of stories where we wanted to provide detailed coverage, but where the logistics or the politics made it much harder to do so.
First, Iraq. The reports started coming through on Tuesday evening that there had been a series of explosions near the city of Mosul. A curfew had been imposed so no journalists were being allowed to enter the area. None of the local news agencies were providing pictures, so throughout Tuesday night and much of Wednesday morning, our coverage was restricted to showing graphic maps of the area, and talking to our team in Baghdad.
Eventually some pictures of people being treated in hospital did emerge, but at the time of writing, there are still no pictures from the scene of the attack. And yet it looks as though it's led to the worst loss of life in Iraq in any incident this year, so we have a clear need to give the story a great deal of prominence.
In our flagship programme World News Today we interviewed our correspondent in Baghdad, Richard Galpin. He was able to pull together information from local sources, and we've also been speaking to the BBC World Service Middle East analyst Roger Hardy, who has briefed us on the Yazidi minority group which has been the target of the attacks. But our staff are still trying to get hold of people who can give us direct eyewitness accounts and paint a more accurate picture of exactly how many people have been killed or injured.
The slightly easier task is to place the event in some sort of context - who might be behind the attacks, what they are hoping to achieve, what reaction has there been from the Iraqi government and from the White House. But first-hand accounts of what happened are vital to our reporting.
The same is true of the floods in North Korea. The problems for us are similar - we know there has been a major loss of life, and unusually the North Koreans have asked for help. That in itself is seen as an indication of the seriousness of the situation. But North Korea is a closed country and Western journalists are rarely allowed to report from there.
We have a team based in South Korea, and we're trying to get people into the North. But for now we have to rely on pictures emerging either on North Korean television or from any news agencies which are able to operate there.
We have no real idea of how many people have died, or how the rescue effort is progressing. Our journalists continue to push for new information - and these days we also routinely appeal for information on air and on our web pages. But once again, we're struggling to give the story the kind of coverage it probably deserves.
India is probably the most competitive television news market in the world. There are at least 20 news channels, about half broadcasting in English and half in Hindi. There are channels specialising in business, channels specialising in headlines, and channels which go for entertainment stories.
We've been broadcasting in India longer than nearly all of them and at one stage we used to produce output specifically targeted at the sub-continent. Question Time India; HardTalk India; Wheels (a motoring programme), even a version of University Challenge featuring Indian students.
But in such a competitive market, you need to be clear about what you stand for, what your strengths are. We know that ours is international news made relevant to South Asian audiences. Which is why on Monday (at 9.30pm IST/10pm PST), we're launching a new edition of our flagship programme, World News Today, specifically targeted at viewers in India and Pakistan and other countries in south Asia where we know we have a loyal following.
The programme will be presented by Nik Gowing, who is very well-known to BBC World viewers and who has been reporting from Asia throughout his years on the channel. He makes it his business to have first-hand knowledge of the stories he's reporting from, and hops on to aeroplanes the way most of us hop on to a bus or a train. So he's just back from his latest trip to India to promote the new programme and he'll be there again in a few weeks to report on the 60th anniversary celebrations.
His new programme will report the world to South Asia and south Asia to the world - how does the extraordinary economic success of India impact upon western nations? How does America's support for President Musharraf impact upon his popularity in Pakistan? What do British Indians feel about the performance of the India cricket team during the tour of England? These are the sorts of areas which come under our remit, and we're confident we can provide audiences in South Asia with a depth and breadth of coverage that no other broadcaster can match.
We'd love to know whether you agree, and what suggestions you have for the kind of coverage we should be offering viewers in the region. It's an exciting few days for us...
Whatever you think of this blog (and judging by the comments to Peter Barron's entry there are some of you in both the "like" and the "dislike" camps) it has never been our intention to use it solely for the purposes of advertising. Sure, we're happy to tell you about a new development if we think it's noteworthy, but we don't just run "house" adverts.
Well there's an exception to every rule. We at BBC World have been running some thought-provoking billboard adverts in New York City. They are a bit of a departure from anything we've done before, and we hope they get the message across to our new and growing audiences in the US that we are serious about reflecting all sides in our news coverage.
A few weeks ago the Columbia Journalism Review published a piece headlined "Superiority Complex - why the Brits think they're Better" which examined the growing popularity of British-based journalism in the US. It was a good piece, apart from the headline, which (I hope) was written with a fair amount of tongue-in-cheek. We have big plans for the US market, but we certainly don't think we're superior.
Yesterday the latest stage of those plans became public when we announced who would be the Executive Producer for our new newshour to be broadcast at 7pm EST (midnight in the UK). Rome Hartman joins us from CBS News, where his previous role was launching Katie Couric's "Evening News"... and prior to that he had worked for many years at the legendary 60 Minutes.
So why do we think we can do well in one of the most crowded television markets in the world? Rome put it neatly yesterday when he said: "More and more Americans are seeking smart and sophisticated coverage of the world; coverage the BBC is uniquely capable of providing." So it's that combination of a demand (among a certain section of the audience) for a greater level of international coverage at a time of globalisation and complexity, combined with the scale of the BBC - we have more than 40 news bureaux around the world and a fantastic tradition of providing high-quality, independent journalism for global audiences.
The new programme will air on BBC America, our sister channel in the US which reaches 55 million homes, and around the globe on BBC World, where we reach more than 270 million homes.
Rome starts with us in a couple of weeks, and then the real planning will begin. The formula will be largely familiar to audiences of BBC World - we'll be taking the best of our international coverage and presenting it in a way that we hope will be closer, more relevant to American audiences. It will be a programme of real substance, but it will also have style and energy. It'll be broadcast from our Washington Bureau, from where we already do two nightly newscasts aimed at US audiences, but expect to see contributions from our correspondents in Delhi and Beijing and Nairobi and Brussels and all the other places which don't often make it on to the US news agenda.
So what do you think? What will make you watch? We'd love to hear what you think...
Name two daily news programmes on British television which concentrate only on international events. Can't do it? Actually there's only one - it runs on the digital channel BBC Four and until Friday it was known as The World.
From tonight it has a new name, World News Today, and a new slot, 7pm. But some things stay the same.
It's unashamedly serious; but that doesn't mean it's not engaging or stimulating. And it's still going to be presented by Zeinab Badawi, who is an outstanding presenter and interviewer.
The reason for the change? Well the programme has always been produced by BBC World on behalf of BBC Four, and we've been gradually developing the concept of World News Today across our key hours of the day.
It made sense to extend it to the programme we make for BBC Four, using essentially the same structure and taking the opportunity to refresh the graphics and music which identifies the programme.
We will soon have four editions of World News Today on air, sharing the same structure and appearance, but each targeted at a slightly different audience. Tonight's programme will be for BBC Four viewers in Britain and, simultaneously, BBC World's audiences in continental Europe. Others are (or will be) aimed at the USA, South Asia and the Far East.
At a time when foreign news coverage is under pressure in many areas of the British media, we're proud to produce a programme which aims to produce a truly international perspective on events, and we think there's demand out there from among you, the audience.
As a taster for tonight, we'll be looking at sanctions against Sudan, the crisis facing the leadership of the Israeli government, and the closure of one of the biggest TV stations in Venezuela. We'd love to know what you think, whether you're watching in the UK or elsewhere.
So how did the BBC report that Building 7 at the World Trade Centre had collapsed around half an hour before it did so? My earlier posting on the subject has attracted a lot of interest so we've been doing more investigating within the BBC to put together the sequence of events.
Five and a half years have passed so it's quite difficult to answer every outstanding question. But we do know quite a bit more than we did on Tuesday, as a result of checking the BBC archives and what other media were doing at the time. I've also read through some of the reports published after 9/11 to help put together the sequence of events.
Back to 11 September itself. The Twin Towers had collapsed. Other buildings were known to be damaged. Building 7 was on fire. But this was also a very confusing picture - remember we had started the day with reports that a light aircraft had struck the first tower, and at one stage there was talk of ten hijacked jets in the air. It's in the nature of rolling news that events unfold in front of you and confusion turns to clarity. It's important to remember that context when looking more closely at what happened between about 4.10pm (EDT) and 5.20pm when Building 7 finally collapsed.
CNN's chronology of events published at the time confirms they reported the building on fire and a clip from a CNN bulletin, widely available on the web, hears from a reporter at about 4.15pm EDT, 9.15pm in the UK, who says: "We're getting information that one of the other buildings... Building 7... is on fire and has either collapsed or is collapsing... now we're told there is a fire there and that the building may collapse as well."
Other American networks were broadcasting similar reports at this time and the reports from FEMA and NIST both make it clear the building was on fire during the course of the day.
One senior fire officer was quoted in a subsequent interview as saying there was a "bulge" in the building and he was "pretty sure it was going to collapse". During this time, our staff were talking directly to the emergency services and monitoring local and national media… and there was a fairly consistent picture being painted of Building 7 in danger of collapse. Producers in London would have been monitoring the news agency wires - the Associated Press, Reuters, etc - and although we don't routinely keep an archive of agency reports, we're sure they would have been reporting the same as the local media.
At 4.27pm, a BBC reporter, Greg Barrow, who is in New York, appears on our radio news channel, BBC Radio Five Live, and says: "We are hearing reports from local media that another building may have caught light and is in danger of collapse." He then responds to a follow-up question by saying "I'm not sure if it has yet collapsed but the report we have is talking about Building 7."
At 4.53pm, on the same radio station, the programme's presenter, Fi Glover says "25 minutes ago we had reports from Greg Barrow that another large building has collapsed just over an hour ago."
At 4.54pm, the BBC's domestic television news channel, BBC News 24, reports the same thing. Presenter Gavin Esler says: "We're now being told that yet another enormous building has collapsed... it is the 47-storey Salomon Brothers building."
And then at 4.57pm on BBC World (according to the clips available on the web) presenter Phil Hayton says: "We've got some news just coming in actually that the Salomon brothers building in NY right in the heart of Manhattan has also collapsed."
Because three BBC channels were saying this in quick succession, I am inclined to believe that one or more of the news agencies was reporting this, or at least reporting someone saying this.
At 5pm, News 24 repeated the news in its top-of-the-hour headlines sequence and then at about 5.10pm (again according to the clips on the web), Phil Hayton on BBC World says "More on the latest building collapse in NY - you might have heard I was talking a few moments ago about the Salomon building collapsing and indeed it has... it seems this wasn't the result of a new attack but because the building had been weakened during this morning's attack."
Some of the respondents to my earlier blog have suggested this must mean he had inside knowledge - that not only did he know the building had collapsed, he knew why.
Well in one sense that's true - for about an hour, it had been reported that the building was on fire and in danger of collapse. But he did qualify it by saying "it seems" and once again I think there's a danger of reading too much into what I believe was a presenter merely summarising what everyone had been saying during the previous hour.
Of course, with hindsight we now know that our live shot showed the building still standing in the background. But again I point to that confusing and chaotic situation on the ground - the CNN reporter who had talked about the building "either collapsed or is collapsing" also had it clearly in shot behind him, but he acknowledged he couldn't see very clearly from where he was standing. As we know, the building did collapse at 5.20pm, with the first pictures of that being broadcast on News 24 at about 5.35pm.
So that's what we know we reported. To me it paints a consistent (and reasonably conclusive) picture.
I should also mention the missing tapes. As you'll see from the details above, the absence of the BBC World tapes hasn't made much difference to our ability to look back at what happened. We have all the tapes of other BBC channels (and I now know that quite a few of you have your own copies of BBC World, which is an interesting discovery... ).
Some of you find it hard to believe we didn't keep the BBC World tapes... but we had several streams of news output running simultaneously on the day, both on radio and television as well as online and we have kept all the tapes from BBC News 24 and Radio Five Live, as well as all the BBC One bulletins. Obviously I wish we'd kept hold of the World tapes alongside all the others, but we didn't... and I don't know whether they were destroyed or mislaid. But as a result of this week's events, I have asked our archivists to get hold of copies of our original material from the organisations which do have them.
And just to be clear, the BBC policy is to keep every minute of news channel output for 90 days (in line with the Broadcasting Act in the UK). After that we are obliged to keep a representative sample - and we interpret that to mean roughly one third of all our output. We also keep a large amount of individual items (such as packaged reports or "rushes" - ie original unedited material), which we use for operational reasons - such as when we come to broadcast fresh stories on the subject. We do not lack a historical record of the event.
I've spent most of the week investigating this issue, but this is where we have to end the story. I know there are many out there who won't believe our version of events, or will raise further questions. But there was no conspiracy in the BBC's reporting of the events. Nobody told us what to say. There's no conspiracy involving missing tapes. There's no story here.
The 9/11 conspiracy theories are pretty well known by now. The BBC addressed them earlier this month with a documentary, The Conspiracy Files, shown within the UK.
Until now, I don't think we've been accused of being part of the conspiracy. But now some websites are using news footage from BBC World on September 11th 2001 to suggest we were actively participating in some sort of attempt to manipulate the audience. As a result, we're now getting lots of emails asking us to clarify our position. So here goes:
1. We're not part of a conspiracy. Nobody told us what to say or do on September 11th. We didn't get told in advance that buildings were going to fall down. We didn't receive press releases or scripts in advance of events happening.
2. In the chaos and confusion of the day, I'm quite sure we said things which turned out to be untrue or inaccurate - but at the time were based on the best information we had. We did what we always did - sourced our reports, used qualifying words like "apparently" or "it's reported" or "we're hearing" and constantly tried to check and double check the information we were receiving.
3. Our reporter Jane Standley was in New York on the day of the attacks, and like everyone who was there, has the events seared on her mind. I've spoken to her today and unsurprisingly, she doesn't remember minute-by-minute what she said or did - like everybody else that day she was trying to make sense of what she was seeing; what she was being told; and what was being told to her by colleagues in London who were monitoring feeds and wires services.
4. We no longer have the original tapes of our 9/11 coverage (for reasons of cock-up, not conspiracy). So if someone has got a recording of our output, I'd love to get hold of it. We do have the tapes for our sister channel News 24, but they don't help clear up the issue one way or another.
5. If we reported the building had collapsed before it had done so, it would have been an error - no more than that. As one of the comments on You Tube says today "so the guy in the studio didn't quite know what was going on? Woah, that totally proves conspiracy... "
The lines are blurring. Once upon a time it was very simple - television channels made programmes and newspapers printed stories. Now, thanks to the internet, broadcasters like the BBC publish stories in text as well as all our traditional activities. And newspapers are increasingly getting involved in video.
This week there was a very clear example of how the world is changing. The Sun newspaper obtained the cockpit video from an American aircraft involved in a "Friendly Fire" incident in which a British soldier in Iraq was killed. Every media organisation picked up on the story, and The Sun was very happy for us to use their video - which had the newspaper's logo "burned" on to it throughout.
However, the Sun also insisted that no other organisation could use the video on their website. They knew their online traffic would increase massively since it was the only place web users could (officially) see the video. A newspaper which clearly understands the power of news video.
So where does that leave us? Already the BBC has taken big strides forward in its provision of news video on its websites - so far the domestic offering is far more advanced, but we'll be further expanding our international offering this year. But as an editor, I'm wondering more about the consequences for our agenda.
We can see from the daily stats the kinds of stories that online viewers like to watch - and they're not always the same as the ones we've give most prominence to in our televison bulletins. Here are Wednesday's most viewed videos from the international pages of BBC News:
1. Airbus A380 campaign takes off
2. Airbus shows off the A380
3. Astronaut's murder plot charge
4. Hydrogen motorcycle launched
5. Annual Empire State stair race
All of which were stories we'd covered (with the possible exception of the stair race) on BBC World, but not with the kind of prominence that web users apparently gave them.
So how should that inform the decisions we take about running orders for our television news bulletins? Obviously we'll continue to make judgements about the significance and relevance of stories to our audiences, but how much should we be taking into account the trends we see from the web stats?
We've made some changes and we'd like to know what you think. BBC World and BBC News 24 have a new on-screen appearance - the results of months of planning and thousands of hours of hard work by a brilliant team of designers, directors and programmers. BBC World has also made some changes to its bulletins, aiming to offer a clearer structure and more space for analysis and debate. The results are on air from today - and since it's all intended to improve the service to our viewers, we want to get your opinions on what we've done.
The on-screen graphics have been changed for a number of reasons. One is internal - we're introducing a new software system (known as VizRT) and it gives us the opportunity to introduce some new features. But the biggest reason was that we felt our existing appearance was beginning to look a bit tired and it was time for an update. The new look is slightly more subtle - it takes up a little less screen space and moves the channel name further down the screen to sit alongside the rolling "ticker" of news headlines. (By the way, the little box with the channel name on it is known as the DOG ...which I think stands for Digital On screen Graphic but I'm bound to be corrected by someone).
The captions, which we use for identifying interviewees and also for giving information about stories, have new colours and a slightly different font. And we've also moved the "locator" - ie the strap which tells you where a correspondent is - up to the top left of screen.
The overall effect is much crisper and cleaner, and I think gives the channel a more contemporary feel. We operate in a very competitive environment and it's important that we support the substance of our journalism with the style of our presentation and production. For that reason, we've also made a number of other changes. There are new titles sequences, with remixed music....and these will appear on all the BBC Television News programmes, so that means the One, Six and Ten O'Clock News on BBC One in the UK as well as News 24 and BBC World.
On World we've also changed the way in which we do headlines at the start of each hour - there will be more of them and the first thing you'll see will be the image from the story, rather than the presenter appearing in vision. Again, a very small change, but one which we think will give us a little more punch.
And lastly on BBC World, we've made some changes to what we call the "running orders" of our news bulletins. From now on, there'll be a clear structure which starts with a core news bulletin in the first one-third, has space for analysis and discussion in the second third, and finishes with Sport and Features in the final third. Partly this is the result of what you, the audience, have been telling us during extensive research over the past year.
Many viewers said they were confused by our structure and wanted us to label things more clearly. I also wanted to bring a bit more pace to our news bulletins and ensure we cover more stories from more parts of the world - taking full advantage of the BBC's global reach.
So from 0500 GMT this morning that's what we're doing. And we very much hope you like it.
We learnt some very interesting things about life in Iran yesterday - not just because of what's been happening on air, but also behind the scenes.
The idea was been to link up students in Iran with students in the UK and the USA, and get them to ask each other questions and share their views about each other's cultures.
We've had some fascinating discussions about the nuclear issue, the conflict in Iraq, freedom of the media, even the wearing of headscarves. One young Iranian said, "I have an experience I want to share with everyone in the world". And because of the BBC she can, since she is being broadcast across the UK and to more than 200 countries and territories around the globe.
All of this supports one of our key objectives on BBC World, which is to connect and engage audiences by facilitating an informed and intelligent dialogue - we call it a global conversation. And that's happening with School Day 24, where dozens of schools all around the world are connecting with each other - students in Jerusalem talking to students in the West Bank, Russians talking to Georgians, Indians to Pakistanis - all of these, and many more, broadcast by our radio colleagues at BBC World Service in addition to our TV broadcasts.
But as I said, our experiences off air have also taught us something about life in Iran. The university we've been filming at, the Islamic Azad University, could not have been more helpful. Our correspondent Frances Harrison and her dedicated team have spent many weeks negotiating the arrangements and the university has pulled out all the stops to help us. And when it came to the filming, no one was monitoring the students or telling them what to say - they were left on their own to say what they think.
Contrast that with the attitude of Iranian TV, which agreed to let us rent one of their satellite dishes so we could broadcast all of our links live from the university. Then, as it came closer to the big day, it became clear that someone, somewhere had cold feet. Suddenly the dish we'd been promised was needed elsewhere and, eventually, we finally realised we weren't going to get it. Instead, Frances would have to record all her interviews and feed them over to us from her office.
It meant we couldn't get live interaction between the students - and maybe that's what somebody wanted to stop from happening. But the university was clearly pretty cross about the whole thing and was determined to let us go ahead with the interviews.
So perhaps that tells you something about the nature of Iranian society. That some people are more relaxed about engaging with the West than others. That perhaps they are suspicious of the BBC and the Western media - or worried about what their own students will say. Perhaps there's just too much red-tape. But the students know where they stand - they want to keep the conversation going and have been busy signing themselves up for various chat sites to enable them to do so.
Even without the live link-up, it still feels like we've started something...
At midday today (GMT), the international television news market is joined by a new name - al-Jazeera English. A few days ago it was going to be called al-Jazeera International but for some unexplained reason it's changed at the last minute.
Either way, AJI - or AJE as we now know it - looks like it's going to be a serious competitor for the two established global channels, BBC World and CNN. They have put together an extensive network of correspondents and bureau, and have invested heavily in four broadcast centres in different parts of the world. And they are making some grand claims about how they intend to bring a new perspective to the market. They're going to be reporting the south to the north, they say. They won't follow the traditional agenda.
I welcome their arrival. Competition is good in any market, and certainly since we've known the date of their launch, we've been looking at our own programme plans for this period to make sure we'll be looking our best.
We've also been asking ourselves some tough questions about our own agenda. For example, although we're proud of our British heritage, we don't aim to cover British news - unless it has some international significance or resonance. So today, 20 minutes before the new channel goes on air, Queen Elizabeth will be delivering her annual speech to Parliament, in which she sets out the Government's proposed legislation for the coming year. Do we carry live coverage, in the knowledge that nothing could be more British than the Queen surrounded by all that pomp and ceremony? Or do we say "There's no international significance... it's not for us?" The answer is we will carry it because it's actually one of the more important set-piece events of the year, and because The Queen will be addressing significant issues such as security, migration, and climate change, all of which have a resonance to the viewers around the globe who get their news from BBC World.
Today though we'll also be carrying extensive coverage of the Nairobi summit on climate change, with reports from the conference itself supported by background reporting from our correspondents in Africa. We have a very powerful piece from Fergal Keane on the effects of climate change on the Turkana tribe in Kenya. Much as I respect al-Jazeera's ambition to shed new light on some parts of the southern hemisphere, it would be unfair to say they have a monopoly in doing so. We have correspondents throughout Africa (indeed we also have many in the Middle East, al-Jazeera's home territory). And we think it's important to reflect events and opinions in these parts of the world, as much as we do the events in Brussels or Moscow or Washington.
Where we appear to depart from al-Jazeera is in our attitudes to reporting what happens in the West. One of their London correspondents says in an interview today he won't attend briefings at Downing Street because "that's typical of the Western way of doing TV News where you take something seriously simply because a big statesman is saying things."
That can't be right can it? I think it's wrong not to challenge and test what people in power have said, but you can't dismiss it simply because they've said it. It's an important part of our role to explain events in the most powerful countries in the world.
But now you have your own chance to judge. We'll be trying to show that the range and depth of journalism, and our ability to present all sides of the story will be qualities which audiences still greatly value. CNN and AJE (as well as Russia Today and the soon-to-be-launched France 24 and Press of Iran), will be promoting their strengths. And at midday today we'll all be able to make our own judgements.
How many English speakers are there around the world? It's a question I started researching when a newspaper journalist interviewed me last week about the launch of a French news channel, France 24. The question was relevant because it turns out that much of the French channel will be broadcast in English - and for a nation which protects its language so fiercely, this must have been a very hard decision.
But it's also a pragmatic one. The number of people who can speak English is growing, and it's becoming the international language of business and, of course, the internet in many parts of the world. Exactly how many people speak English is a matter of some disagreement.
If you look at some of the online encyclopedias, such as Wikipedia or Encarta, there's a rough agreement that 350 million people - give or take 20 or 30 million - speak English as their first language. When you try to account for people who speak English as a secondary language, the estimates diverge from another 150 million to more than 500 million.
Either way it seems to lift English up from the fourth or fifth most spoken language to second, behind Chinese. French, according to Encarta, comes in at 11th, with 78 million speakers. So on that basis, you can see why producing some of its output in English is a necessary step if France 24 is going to make any impact in the international market.
It's an increasingly crowded market. CNN has been there for 25 years and BBC World Service Television - later to become BBC World - launched 15 years ago. There are four more English channels either on air or planned to launch...Russia Today (you can watch it here) is on air and of course the much-hyped Al Jazeera International is due to launch at some point, although nobody is saying exactly when. Even the Iranians are getting in on the act, announcing this month the intention to launch a 24 hour news channel in English, to be called "Press".
So why the rush to launch so many news channels? I think it divides into two reasons. First, because the demand (and need) for international news is growing (BBC World's audiences are increasing in just about every market) and so many of us these days have a direct interest in global affairs that these channels are becoming increasingly relevant... decisions taken outside national borders may affect our jobs, or the state of our environment, or indeed our security.
The second reason is politics. To quote President Chirac, France "must be at the forefront of the global battle of images, that's why I am resolved that our country should have an international news channel". An Iranian official quoted last week said Press was necessary to provide “a different perspective on the region’s issues”.
Both BBC World and CNN exist because of the first reason. We're there because we think it's important to offer a high-quality service of international news to global audiences, in the same way as the World Service does on the radio (neither, incidentally, funded out of the British licence fee).
We think the public service values of the BBC's domestic journalism also have a place in the global arena and in doing so we bring benefit back to Britain. Plus we also help sustain an international network of correspondents and bureaux which benefits UK viewers and listeners.
And of course we welcome all competition... because without it, we risk becoming complacent or stale. So I will be watching eagerly when France 24 goes on air later this year, and perhaps I won't even need to brush up on my French to do so.
If you'd been watching BBC World at 23:50 GMT last night, you would have seen a report about the Thai prime minister arriving in London, after flying from the United Nations in New York.
Except in Thailand, however. There, just as the report began, a caption appeared in place of our signal to say "programming will resume shortly" - and then, bizarrely, a montage of Western movie stars appeared. We'd been censored... as we have been since the coup began on Tuesday.
Things have got a little better. Initially we were taken off air completely, as were CNN. We re-appeared yesterday morning, Thai time, but since then have both been subject to selective censorship.
Footage of the coup leaders appears to be allowed to go out uncensored, but anything involving Thaksin Shinawatra is being blocked. Does this mean, however, that the Thai people know nothing of what he is saying?
I doubt it very much. In this digital age, information travels freely - if it's not by satellite television, it's via email, the Internet, or by SMS. The crude censorship being deployed in Thailand may hark back to an age when Governments really could control all the information, and surely those days are gone.
Incidentally, we know exactly what's happening thanks to our colleagues at BBC Monitoring, based at Caversham. They have been carefully monitoring all the media reports in Thailand, and I'm grateful to them for providing us with the necessary information.
So last night they were able to tell us more details about the terms of the censorship, by monitoring a report on the Thai Channel 9. This is the text of the statement read out:
- "Having successfully seized the executive power of the country, the Administrative Reform Committee under the Democratic System with the King as the Head of State commands the ICT Ministry to censor, prevent, block out, and destroy dissemination of information in the information technology system, transmitted through all communication networks, that contains articles, messages, verbal speech or any other discourse that might undermine the reform for democracy under constitutional monarchy as already specified in the Administrative Reform Committee Under the Democratic System With the King as the Head of State's earlier announcement."
Perhaps we should be grateful that at least they're admitting to censoring the media. This morning there was a bit more detail to accompany that statement. BBC Monitoring reports the Thai Nation newspaper's website as saying...
- "The permanent secretary for Information and Communications Technology Ministry Thursday (21 Sep) held a meeting with representatives of various media. Kraisorn Pornsutee, the permanent secretary, asked the media representatives to cancel the show of SMS comments of audience on TVs as well as cancelling phone-in comments on radio programmes. Those attending the meeting were representatives of state firms, website operators, mobile phone operators, print and electronic media. The meeting took place at 13:30 local time (06:30 GMT). Kraisorn also asked the website operators to monitor comments on their webboard to screen out provocative comments."
So the authorities are trying to restrict the new media as well as the "traditional". As I've said, I doubt if that can really be effective. But it would be interesting to see what you think about that - especially if you're in Thailand...
When is nudity acceptable on the news?
Ever since the infamous "nipplegate" incident involving Janet Jackson's costume malfunction, television channels in America have been especially sensitive to any bare flesh.
So Allan Little's piece from Swaziland on Friday (watch it here) saw a group of BBC World producers studying the US rule book very carefully... since we broadcast on American cable networks, and have to respect "local" laws.
Allan reported on the "Ceremony of the Reed" - where the King of Swaziland chooses a wife from a parade of women dressed in traditional costume. That is, they weren't wearing anything on top. There wasn't really any way of avoiding the issue - that's how they were dressed, and to have edited out any toplessness would have been bizarre.
But talking to colleagues in the US, it's pretty clear that American TV channels have become cautious to the extreme on any issues involving either nudity or swearing. One channel reportedly re-edited a cartoon because it showed a bare bottom.
So we referred to the Federal Communications Commission guidelines which govern broadcasts in the US. The relevant section - on "indecency" - says the following:
- Material is indecent if, in context, it depicts or describes sexual or excretory organs or activities in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium. In each case, the FCC must determine whether the material describes or depicts sexual or excretory organs or activities and, if so, whether the material is "patently offensive."
- In our assessment of whether material is "patently offensive," context is critical. The FCC looks at three primary factors when analysing broadcast material: (1) whether the description or depiction is explicit or graphic; (2) whether the material dwells on or repeats at length descriptions or depictions of sexual or excretory organs; and (3) whether the material appears to pander or is used to titillate or shock. No single factor is determinative. The FCC weighs and balances these factors because each case presents its own mix of these, and possibly other, factors.
Now quite clearly (to me at least), our piece from Swaziland could not possibly have breached the guidelines. Context is critical, the guidelines say, and our context was clear.
But not everyone in the newsroom agreed, and nor did some of partner channels in the US, who we work with very closely. So we had another think - and decided to broadcast anyway. Not to have done so would have made a nonsense of Allan's story... which raised important issues about a country trying to modernise and hang on to its traditions at the same time.
Thus far, nobody has complained.
Consider these two items:
- • "The sight of a huge flotilla of ships carrying thousands of foreigners out of harm's way has only served to highlight the plight of those left behind. Civilians - mostly, but not exclusively, Lebanese - are the main casualties. There is now a rising chorus of experts who have raised the question of international humanitarian law."
- • "British navy warships and helicopters are in Beirut this lunchtime - to rescue more British nationals - trapped by the fighting in Lebanon. They're being loaded on to two Royal Navy vessels - which will take them to Cyprus later this afternoon."
Clearly two news organisations with vastly different views on the main story at midday (UK time) Thursday.
Actually, they're both the BBC. One was BBC World, broadcasting to audiences outside the UK. The other was BBC News 24, the domestic news channel. And at lunchtime today we had very different ideas about what we wanted to concentrate on. It's a great thing about the BBC that we have sufficient editorial independence to be able to make these decisions. Both, in their own way, are very focused on the audiences served by the programmes. Neither (in my view) is more correct than the other.
At BBC World we have devoted a lot of time to the international operation taking people out of Lebanon. And it's true that we have looked at it more through British eyes - partly because for safety reasons we're sharing a lot of resources with domestic BBC outlets in Beirut.
But we've also reported on what nations like India, Sri Lanka and Canada have been doing. And we keep coming back to issues facing the people who can't leave the country. One of our longest-serving Middle East correspondents, Jim Muir, is in Tyre in southern Lebanon, which has been very badly hit by the bombardment. Gavin Hewitt has reported on Lebanese people trying to escape to Syria. And of course this is a story with two sides - so our correspondents in northern Israel have been reporting on the consequences of the missile attacks there. News 24 has covered the same issues - and at times we've been "simulcasting" - ie both channels carrying the same coverage, presented from both Beirut and Haifa.
The challenge for us - whether we be serving domestic or international audiences - is not to lose sight of all the issues. It's complicated; it's changing rapidly; opinions are strongly-held on all sides and need to be properly reflected. So even if we spend a few hours of one day focusing on one aspect - such as the British evacuees - we must make sure that over time we keep coming back to the core questions. What's happening now? What caused this? What's going to resolve it? And many others...
Richard Porter is editor of BBC World
Terrible news emerging from India of a series of explosions on trains in Mumbai. The latest reports suggest 135 people have been killed - although experience tells us that these figures are likely to change over the course of the evening.
For a news channel, an event of this kind sets off a tried and tested set of processes. This is what we call a rolling news story - we're staying on this to the exclusion of all other events. We're calling upon all our resources in India to help us keep viewers up to date. We have two correspondents based in Mumbai, who are at the scene of the explosions.
We have pictures coming in from local news organisations, and our producers in London are checking these before making them ready to go to air. The wire services are providing us with new information - such as the prime minister of India's reaction to what's happened. And our own producers are calling upon their contacts to get as much fresh information as possible.
It's also important for us to provide some context. Our security correspondent Gordon Correra has been on air a number of times in the past three hours explaining the background to the security situation in India. Gordon has a deep understanding of issues related to terrorism around the world, as well as a good knowledge of previous events in India.
It's not our job to speculate, or to guess - but we do use our experience and knowledge to give as much context as we can to the events. As I write, our Pakistan correspondent has just gone on air to report on reaction from Islamabad - President Musharraf has condemned the attacks.
One production team is keeping the channel on air. Another team of people is looking further ahead. Reinforcements are being sent from Delhi to Mumbai, and we are also sending teams on the overnight flights from London to Mumbai. We hope to have one of our presenters anchoring our coverage from Mumbai in the morning, but there's a lot of work to be done first.
Most of all, however, we have to remember this is a terrible human tragedy for many people. We must adopt the right tone, take great care with our use of pictures, and remember that there are people watching who may well be directly affected by the attacks.
Day four and things are settling down.
Here are some things we hope the viewers have noticed (and some we hope they haven't...):
A few days ago there was a bomb drama in Sweden (no-one died). BBC World ran a story about it with TV footage from the Swedish news. As an eyewitness made a statement BBC voiced over a translation and I thought it didn't sound right... something to effect of him being terrified, thinking about moving to another part of town and it was scary with terrorists so close to home.
In the Swedish news, the exact same footage was shown without voice over and what he really said was something like it was a little bit unsettling because he visited a friend and they could see the drama from the window - end.
And this set off a huge debate about standards on the BBC.
I think I got to the bottom of it. In short, we made a mistake (for which we should apologise), but it's not as bad as it was made out to be. The interview with the eyewitness was sent to us in Swedish, with text of the English translation. It said...
Reporter - Are you worried?
Eyewitness - Yes, I have friends who live just above and I was there and saw the guy. I pity the man, he seems mentally ill, its nothing else.
Reporter - What will you do now?
Eyewitness - I am thinking of moving away, the terrorists have come here too it seems. I don't know, I don't think it's a terrorist, something is wrong with this society.
What we did then was to confuse the two answers - the part of the interview we used was the first answer, but the English translation we added was the second answer. So the eyewitness did talk about terrorists - we just didn't use the right bit.
The lesson for us is to find someone to listen back to these things before we put them on air.
Last time I wrote about a BBC World publicity campaign, I was told it wasn't the sort of thing we should be reading on The Editors. It didn't involve an editorial dilemma, or an explanation of a controversial decision.
So I'm treading a little carefully this time. You see, we've been getting ourselves noticed again. This time in the USA - the big one, the one we've wanted to crack for years, the original home of the news channel. At long last, BBC World has some full-time distribution there. Everybody involved in the channel is very exicted about it...and I just wanted to explain why.
Why so significant? Because until now, you can only watch BBC World either through the half-hour bulletins shown by PBS stations in the States, or through our morning transmissions on BBC America (recently extended to a full three hours). But now, if you live in New York, you can watch the channel 24 hours a day. I'm not sure I'd recommend that to anyone (although my colleague Steve Williams, recently the father of twins, is doing his best to maintain a viewing marathon while he feeds his babies night after night).
It's taken many years to get this far. The cable networks in the US took the view that they didn't need any more news networks. But our PBS broadcasts have been attracting very healthy audiences - more than CNN can claim for almost all of their programmes. And it's maybe a sign of the times that some American audiences want to see a channel which has a serious commitment to international news, and which doesn't see everything from a Washington or New York perspective. We don't profess to replace any other network, but we think we can offer something extra to the market. And we hope the New York deal is the first of many.
George Alagiah was in Times Square promoting the channel and his new news hour last week. World News Today will air from 0700-0800 EST (ie midday here) every weekday, and we intend to showcase the extraordinary range and depth of BBC Newsgathering resources. The hour will be targeted towards America, but that doesn't mean its agenda will be American - because that's not why people will be watching us. Equally, however, it would be daft to miss opportunities to explain how the world sees America - but that's not difficult when you consider the current news agenda. And, as ever with BBC World, we'll have to remember that while it's the morning for one audience, it's the middle of the evening for another.
Distribution in the US is the last big link in the chain. You can currently see the channel 24 hours a day in around 140 million homes around the globe, but until now all that growth has been outside the biggest TV market in the world. In terms of profile and revenue (because don't forget, we are commercially funded), this is the one we've been waiting for. So yes, we're very excited.
I was at a conference at the weekend where someone asked me to define 'News'. I hate it when people do that. It's just possible they may have detected through my coughing and spluttering that the definition can be a bit vague.
I'm currently looking at the output of BBC World and CNN and wondering to myself: Is this news? You see there's a very big fire at Istanbul airport. The pictures are spectacular. We've been using them almost non-stop for about 90 minutes now. But the fire seems to have been caused by an electrical fault. And it's in the cargo terminal. And there are no reported casualties.
So is it news?
Well yes, it is. It's a particularly large fire, and it is at a well-known international airport. For quite a long time we didn't know whether the cause could have been more troubling. We're a visual medium, and the images are incredibly strong. Thanks to the user-generated hub in News Interactive, we're getting first-hand reports from passengers at the airport (the eye-witness we just spoke to sent an email to the BBC using his Blackberry).
But it's probably not news for much longer. It will make a strong package for the rest of the day, but I doubt the live coverage will sustain for very long. And CNN appear to think the same thing, since as I write we've both moved on to other stories. Not that we ever watch each other to see what's happening. Oh no.
Putting News First. That's what our brand campaign says. That's what we do on BBC World. Except some of our viewers need to be convinced. Which is why the latest advertising campaign - which has just gone live - continues to hammer home the theme of news as the heart of everything we do.
The campaign was first introduced about 18 months ago, in response to research which suggested some audiences were confused about the role of the channel. At the same time, the schedule was changed to increase the amount of live news and business content, and we hope that anyone watching now will be clear about our purpose (though we were pretty clear to start with!).
The brand campaign, which features stories of bravery and enterprise from BBC correspondents and crews, is designed to send out the message that we go that bit further to bring you the news; and that we don't just tell you what's happened, we tell you why. This is judged to be one of our core advantages over our international competitors; we're perceived as offering more range and depth.
The campaign has featured John Simpson's burka, Hilary Andersson's gas mask and Matthew Price's experiences from the Middle East (filmed, as it happens, in White City, but that's another story). The latest incarnation, launched this week, is an updated series of print ads. They feature artefacts from news stories - a flak jacket, amongst other examples (see some of them here) - but also have testimonials from influential viewers...