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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.

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Humphrys planning to quit `Today'

JOHN HUMPHRYS is planning to leave or drastically scale down his role as the presenter of the BBC's flagship Radio 4 programme Today.

Radio: They should have said about Paxman

It was one of the most irritating advertisements ever screened. It was for that overrated magazine, the Economist. A businessman sits in his paid-for-by-someone-else airline seat. He looks pretty pleased with himself until who should squeeze in next to him but Henry Kissinger? Yikes! As our once-smug businessman does not read the Economist, we are led to believe, he will have nothing to say to Kissinger for seven hours except "pass the nuts, please". Or whatever they say in First Class.

Letter: The Paxman touch

The Paxman touch

Good humour saves festival from elements

THE ENGLISH, drawled Jeremy Paxman at the Hay-on-Wye literary festival yesterday, are defined by their ability to put up with almost anything with great good humour.

Britons rush to meet the brains behinds the books

WHERE CAN you find Val Doonican on the same programme as Harold Pinter? A gig by Van Morrison in the same venue as a discussion with Tom Wolfe? The Booker-winning novelist Ian McEwan with an appearance from proto-punk Ian Dury and his Blockheads? Not to mention the chance to beard Jimmy Hill ...

Open Eye: We are the champions... again

The OU has joined the elite group of universities to have won University Challenge twice, following victory over Oriel College, Oxford, in the final on 27 April. No university has yet won it three times.

The Critcs - Television: It makes you sad to be English

The shooting of John Lennon. The Lindbergh kidnapping. Nearly a week on, it is still scarcely believable that the name of Jill Dando, of all people, should be added to a list of crimes made particularly shocking by the fame and innocence of the victim. A list of crimes, along with the death of Princess Diana, of where-were-you-when-you-heard? status.

A Week in Books: A happy family of constant readers

WORLD BOOK Day unfolded yesterday with an array of Comic Relief- style stunts. Readers unswayed by sermons from Vanessa Feltz should still back its chief good cause: Book Aid International (at 39-41 Coldharbour Lane, London SE5), which last year sent 735,000 vital volumes to educators in 54 countries.

The truth was `out'. And so were the knives

It was not news to his constituents in Hartlepool or his colleagues in Westminster. So when Matthew Parris was provoked by Jeremy Paxman to `out' Peter Mandelson on TV, he could have let the whole affair blow over. But, as this exclusive extract from Donald Macintyre's biography reveals, this underestimates the ferocity with which the man guards his personal relationships and his private life MANDELSON: THE BIOGRAPHY; The truth was `out'. And so were the knives

Open Eye: Going for the Open double: the final Challenge

The OU is through to the semi-finals of University Challenge, following victory over Birkbeck yesterday. Yvonne Cook reports

Interview Adam & Joe: Pop Vultures

In their homegrown TV show, which returns in April, Adam and Joe ransack celebrities' record collections, Adam's septuagenarian father reviews youth culture, and soft toys star in films such as the new seven- minute epic, Toytanic.

The Critics: Television: A docusoap worthy of the hard cell

There is nothing to compare with actually being in the crowd, chanting and swaying and waving your scarf, or even sitting quietly, chewing your fingernails. But even for those of us at home last Wednesday night, watching the action unfold on the telly, it was an absolutely pulsating quarter-final. Both teams missed dozens of scoring opportunities, which, for the neutrals among us, simply added to the entertainment. And let's not forget the ref, who refused to let the occasion overwhelm him. But then nothing much overwhelms Jeremy Paxman. In the end, Bangor confounded expectations, recovering from a slow start to beat Bristol by 240 points to 170 for a place in the semi-final of University Challenge (BBC2). The Bristol students looked pig-sick. I think they blamed Paxman, for unsportingly refusing to offer them 50-50, ask-the-audience and phone-a-friend.
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James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
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Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
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Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
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Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
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J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
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The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick