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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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Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before