A new channel arrives
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.