FOX has announced that Simon Cowell will serve as America's representative on the upcoming World Idol judging panel. According to reports, Cowell was given the choice to either represent either FOX's American Idol program or the U.K.'s original Pop Idol program (where he still also serves as a judge) and opted to represent the American edition on the international judging panel.

Cowell did not disclose the reasons for his decision, however given that the decision appears to have the dual effect of both preventing Cowell from having to share the U.S. spotlight with fellow American Idol judge Randy Jackson or Paula Abdul, as well as allowing Pete Waterman, Cowell's fellow Pop Idol judge who is rumored to be joining American Idol 3's judging panel, to function as the U.K. edition's representative and expose him to U.S. viewers; perhaps no explanation is necessary.

As reported previously, in the two-part global television event airing December 25 at 8-10 PM ET/PT on FOX, Idol winners from eleven Idol editions from around the globe will battle it out for the World Idol title. As in the traditional Idol format, the program's international panel of judges will give contestants feedback on their performances, after which the competition will open for world-wide viewer voting. Then, a week later in the second part of the special which will air on January 1, 2004 at 9-10 PM ET/PT, the planet's first World Idol will be crowned.

Under the rules, North American audiences can look forward to seeing American Idol 1 winner Kelly Clarkson and Canadian Idol winner Ryan Malcolm competing, however American Idol 2 winner Ruben Studdard is not eligible. Also in the competition are initial U.K. Pop Idol winner Will Young; Jordanian Diana Karzon, winner of the pan-Arab Superstar version produced in Lebanon; South Africa's Heinz Winckler, Guy Sebastian, the winner of the just-completed Australian Idol; as well as five national winners from the mainland European countries of the Netherlands (Jamai Loman), Germany (Alexander Klaws), Poland (Alicja Janosz), Norway (Kurt Nilsen) and Belgium (Peter Evrard).

Pop Idol hosts Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly, known in the U.K. as Ant & Dec, will act as the hosts of the worldwide competition.