Minor British Institutions: The Today programme

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The Independent Online

If there's a radio show that stands for the BBC, then it's the Today programme. All the familiars are there, including disagreement about whether it's left-travelling, a liberal conspiracy or a middle-class smugfest.

In its 50-plus years, it has tried most things, including cooking tips, advice from a doctor, a daily record review, instructions for mixing concrete and Eileen Fowler's keep-fit class.

Echoes of this Auntie-ish search to be un-Auntie-ish remain in its solemn coverage of popular culture and the occasional desperation of its 'light' items. Its presenters are a mix of Received English with chippy, quirky, intellectually over-demonstrative Celts and a lower-order cheeky chappie from Sport.

But the awkward banter is as comforting, first thing, as the earnest banalities of Thought for the Day; and the excellence amid it all explains the record-breaking seven million listeners. An early suggestion for its title was Listen While You Dress.