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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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
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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
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

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Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

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Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

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Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

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