A doorstop of a book crashes on to my desk: volume five of the massive History of UK Broadcasting (Oxford University Press), drawn largely from the BBC's archives, on which Lord (Asa) Briggs has been labouring since 1958. Its theme is competition - referring to the development of ITV between 1955 and 1974 rather than Rupert Murdoch, satellite and cable.

But what catches my eye is the announcement that this is the final volume. How could such a distinguished historian pack up without trying to bring the Eighties and the Birt-Hussey era into perspective?

The first time I telephoned Lord Briggs's Sussex home, he was absent on a sad mission - clearing out his London office at the BBC. It turns out that the market-obsessed corporation wound up its small history unit two years ago, and with the book's publication the final link is broken.

I caught up with him yesterday and he explained ruefully that the BBC had no plans for the history to be continued. The next phase of research cannot go ahead because the archives required have not been catalogued. He thinks this has happened because of the huge financial pressure the BBC has been under, rather than any attempt to stop the story being properly told. He adds: "They need a definite archive policy. Unless they get it right, they will lose the richest archive of any broadcaster worldwide." He says there are major programme gaps anyway: in the period he has just covered, for example, early editions of Juke Box Jury, in which the BBC grappled with the onset of Sixties rock culture, have been lost or destroyed.

Lord Briggs, however, does intend to write a new condensed history of the BBC as a private project, and this one will carry the story into the Eighties, with an epilogue about the extraordinary changes during the chairmanship of Marmaduke Hussey. "I know an enormous amount about the present BBC," the historian confides.

The unusual thing about Mr Hussey, from a historical point of view, is that he is the only BBC chairman to have been appointed for two terms - 10 years in all. But 1996, when he finally steps down, draws ever closer, and there is no sign of a chairman-in-waiting on the board of governors. It had been predicted that Sir David Scholey, the distinguished merchant banker appointed as a governor last year, might prove just the ticket. But he resigned abruptly last month to return to the troubled SG Warburg bank. Lord Briggs observes (again from a historical perspective) that there have been some very strange choices of chairman, and that the rumour mill usually gets it wrong. Mr Hussey's retirement will also coincide with the departure of Sir George Russell, chairman of the Independent Television Commission. But will the two jobs be in the gift of a Labour or a Conservative government?

To lunch in Kensington Park Road with Alan Yentob, the approachable controller of BBC1 - a man who likes to throw away his briefing notes and ramble on lovingly about programmes. The wine bar, overseen by a proprietor who buzzes around on roller blades, is within sight of Yentob's five-storey Notting Hill home. This is currently being redesigned to reflect the fact that he is now the father of two small children. Meanwhile, his partner is scouring Wiltshire for a country cottage, a development which makes the metropolitan and cultivated Yentob feel distinctly uneasy. He mentions that Sir Richard Rogers, his very good friend, is visiting the house that afternoon, just to check whether the alterations, including a huge top- floor parents' zone, pass muster. It strikes me that Yentob is one of the few people lucky and well-heeled enough to lead the fulfilled city life advocated by Sir Richard in his recent Reith lectures - he likes to stop off for breakfast, continental style, at a local caf. When people write profiles of Yentob, they often stress his alleged indecisiveness. This was not in evidence during lunch: he ordered a sorbet, then declined to eat it. "Too sweet," he hissed as the waitress cleared the plates. Substitute a substandard programme for that sorbet, and I suddenly realised how tough he could be.

Standing on a railway platform, I'm asked if I'd like to sample the new miniature Mars bars, downsized for the Nineties. They are quite pleasant, the size of an ordinary chocolate, and send me chewing on to the train with a smile on my face. Andrew Byrd, deputy managing director of the ad agency DMB&B which promotes them, says they have been devised as "a more femine eat": too little to harm you. Apparently, Mars discovered that women do all sorts of funny things with Mars bars (no, not just the Marianne Faithfull sort of thing), such as cutting them up into tiny slivers, or rationing themselves to half a bar because Mars is too wickedly fattening. As a child, we had a party game (perhaps it has died out - my children don't play it) in which you had to dress up in hat, scarf and gloves and try to hack off as large a slice of a Mars bar as possible before the music started. Which brings me to the one drawback of the miniatures. The point about the original Mars bar is that it has a very thick coating of chocolate which requires you to really sink in your teeth. There was none of that satisfying physicality about eating the miniature: it had distinct overtones of a Milky Way. But in an age which has reinvented chocolate bars as ice-cream treats, perhaps this is just one more Nineties example of a brand becoming more things to more people.

I spent Sunday in Kent, observing one of the more astonishing natural sights of my life. My sister and her husband have bought a field containing three large muddy ponds, which lie largely undisturbed, bar anglers and a few pairs of coots, Canada geese and ducks. At one reedy margin we spotted a frog, and then another and another. One entire stretch was completely taken over by copulating frogs, mixed up with some equally ardent toads. They were so overcome by passion that you could pick them up without resistance. We were suddenly aware that an entire stretch of reeds was gently croaking: was it ecstasy, or a warning that humans were about? We spent a voyeuristic hour just watching. On our return to London, we found a completely squashed frog in the road. The city is no place for a frog to go a-wooing.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
A survey carried out by Sainsbury's Finance found 20% of new university students have never washed their own clothes, while 14% cannot even boil an egg
science...and the results are not as pointless as that sounds
politicsIs David Cameron trying to prove he's down with the kids?
Dominique Alderweireld, also known as Dodo de Saumure, is the owner of a string of brothels in Belgium
newsPhilip Sweeney gets the inside track on France's trial of the year
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Cumberbatch was speaking on US television when he made the comment (Getty)
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Tom DeLonge, Travis Barker and Mark Hoppus of Blink-182 pictured in 2011.
musicBassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker say Tom Delonge is 'disrespectful and ungrateful'
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'
tvBroadchurch series 2, episode 4, review - contains spoilers
cyclingDisgraced cycling star says people will soon forgive his actions
Britain's Prince Philip attends a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in London
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran will play three sell-out gigs at Wembley Stadium in July
Lena Dunham posing for an official portrait at Sundance 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Logistics Analyst

£23000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to be a part of ...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Manager - R&D - Paint

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This growing successful busines...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Advisor - Automotive Parts

£16400 - £17500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading online E-commerce ...

Recruitment Genius: Automotive Parts Manager

£27300 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a leading...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea