The Fifth Floor (BBC World Service)

It’s about time the World Service beat its own drum.

A new programme on the World Service (14 January, 11am) marks something important in the station's history: the moment it started to beat its own drum a little to draw attention to its reach and heft. The WS has never been a happy self-promoter - with the exception of an advertising campaign three years ago in which Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama hailed the station, inexplicably there has never been a World Service ad campaign worth speaking of (suggestion: simply project "241 million listeners" nightly on the moon. Two hundred and forty-one million! Beat that!)

In some ways it's one of the nicest things about the station. This is that rare thing: an organisation happy to be modest. But still, The Fifth Floor is long overdue. Billed as having "original insights, playful perspectives and surprising stories from the World Service's 27 language sections", the programme spends time with reporters researching the best or most unusual stories of the week.

This first edition was not without its faults - the sports commentator Cornelius Lysaght's racing spoof was a low point. But there was a nice, witty dialogue between husband and wife journalists frequently separated by their work. "I miss you," said Reda el-Mawy in Tunisia. "You too," said Wafa Zaiane in London, gloomily, "story of our life." A little later, presenter David Amanor went for a walk around the West African section (the "Africa Hub" - given the recent cuts, it's doubtless two interns and a printer, as opposed to one's enduring mental image of the WS, which is basically the scene from Bugsy Malone where all the foreign reporters are crushed into phone booths delivering copy moments before they get splurged.)

Then came the diary of Nurah Ringin, the Kaduna correspondent in Nigeria. "I had to endure trekking 35 miles and taking photos and interviewing leaders at the same time. After the walk I headed back to the press centre, but with no vehicles due to strike action I had to trek back to prepare my afternoon report." I may have heard this wrong, but that implies a journey of 70 miles in one day made mostly on foot. Not possible, surely? Yet I don't doubt for a moment Ringin's word. Yet another phenomenal WS achievement to project on the moon.

Antonia Quirke is an author and journalist. She is a presenter on The Film Programme and Pick of the Week (Radio 4) and Film 2015 and The One Show (BBC 1). She writes a column on radio for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 23 January 2012 issue of the New Statesman, Has the Arab Spring been hijacked?