News

Since the Second World War, when the BBC provided news and comfort for a nation in great peril, it has played a central role in British life and culture. That is why any proposals for radical change at the Corporation, or any sign that its standards might be slipping, deeply disturb its loyal admirers.

DVD: Life, For retail, (2entertain)

What would life be like without David Attenborough?

The Week In Radio: When poetry becomes an adventure

If I had a fiver for everyone I've heard say, "I never watch any television apart from the news and David Attenborough", well, it would probably cover my licence fee. But while there being Nothing on TV has been a staple moan of British cultural life for some time now, radio is in far happier shape. The Rajar figures for the third quarter of the year were good for the BBC, especially Radios 3, 4 and 5 Live. There were all sorts of explanations, including the Ashes and the Proms and global economic meltdown to explain why people were reaching for the radio. Yet perhaps it comes down to the fact that radio simply does some things better.

David Lister: Hirst's £250k (gift)

There's no need for me to comment on the quality of Damien Hirst's new paintings at London's Wallace Collection. The art critics have delivered their verdict (see Performance Notes below) and it's a damning one. Anyway, I'm rather more interested in – and worried by – what went on behind the scenes to get this particular show on the road. What worries me is the £250,000 that Hirst gave from his own large pockets to the Wallace Collection.

Terence Blacker: Britain's green and pleasant divided land

Because politicians only occasionally take into consideration what is happening in the British countryside, rural policies and initiatives, when they do come, often have an other-worldly, Alice in Wonderland feel to them.

Wildlife films: Flights of fancy

Feature-length wildlife films are taking off on the big screen, but this soaring success isn't a result of the usual formula of pretty pictures and earnest commentary. The secret is storytelling, says James Mottram

Prom 76: The Last Night of the Proms, Royal Albert Hall, London

So it’s come to this: Jiri Belohlavek, Principal Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, demoted to playing vacuum cleaner while his Principal Guest Conductor, David Robertson, gets to preside over “Land of Hope and Glory”? Allow me to explain.

A life on the wild side: What makes wildlife presenter Simon King tick?

Simon King's first memory is of an animal – an ostrich – trotting ahead of his mother's car. "I was sitting on my mother's lap, and she was saying 'bloody ostrich!', because it wasn't getting out of the road." He has come a long way since then, but he has never stopped at wildlife with rapt fascination.

The butterfly that came back from the dead – thanks to the red ant

Michael McCarthy celebrates the 25th anniversary of large blue's reappearance

Electric Ink, Radio 4<br>David Attenborough's Life Stories, Radio 4

What's funny about the perilous state of the press? Quite a lot, actually

Herts is where the home of butterflies is

Within earshot of the M25, a giant dome is being built to house thousands of insects and birds. Michael McCarthy reports

Last Night's Television: How Reading Made Us Modern, BBC4<br />Nature's Great Events, BBC1

Here's a nagging thought I'd never encountered before. What do you do if you're a beluga whale and you get an itchy back? There you are, stuck in mid-ocean with the nearest scratchy rock hundreds of nautical miles away, and there's not a lot of point in asking your neighbour to help you out because flippers don't have a very high coefficient of friction anyway. The answer, it turns out, is that you have to wait until the Arctic ice melts and you can roll around in the shingle of a fresh water estuary. We saw a group of belugas doing just that in Nature's Great Events and David Attenborough assured us that they were having a whale of a time. They "whistle with pleasure," he said, which made me wonder where the Natural History Unit had found a fluent speaker of Belugese. It's true that they looked to be enjoying themselves, but can we be sure that they aren't saying, "Bloody hell it's crowded... I know I say this every time but I'm definitely going to a quieter estuary next year"?

Last Night's TV: No one lifts the spirits like Attenborough, and nothing lowers them like children left alone to reveal the horridness of our species

Charles Darwin and the Tree of Life, BBC1<br/>Boys and Girls Alone, Channel 4<br/>La Boh&egrave;me Backstage, Sky Arts

What's in a name? In TV, quite a lot

UKTV has put painstaking effort into rebranding its channels. Ian Burrell finds out why

Letters: Britain's museums

Museum failure shows our lack of a grand narrative

Trials of life: Deborah Ross meets a prickly Sir David Attenborough in his natural habitat

David Attenborough is one of our best-loved broadcasters, and Deborah Ross is one of his greatest fans. She&rsquo;s watched all of his landmark series, and she loved every one. You&rsquo;d have thought they&rsquo;d get on like a house on fire ... wouldn&rsquo;t you?
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Day In a Page

Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – MS Swiss Corona - seven nights from £999pp
Lake Maggiore, Orta and the Matterhorn – seven nights from £899pp
Sicily – seven nights from £939pp
Pompeii, Capri and the Bay of Naples - seven nights from £799pp
Istanbul Ephesus & Troy – six nights from £859pp
Mary Rose – two nights from £319pp
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform