BBC topper may leave in next year

Entwistle leads contenders for top post

LONDON — The BBC’s director general Mark Thompson is expected to leave at the end of the year or early 2013 at the latest.

Authoritative sources suggest that Thompson has told friends that he is “psychologically ready” to exit.

On Monday, BBC chairman Chris Patten announced that headhunters had been hired to find a successor to Thompson, who was appointed in 2004 (Daily Variety, Jan. 24).

At the Oxford Media Conference on Wednesday, Patten spoke publicly about his strategy for finding the BBC’s next director general.

He explained that he and Thompson had agreed before Christmas to appoint headhunters because he wanted the transition between Thompson and whoever is selected to take over to be as smooth as possible.

He will leave the BBC in good health following upheaval as he oversaw a hefty cost saving program leading to the loss of some 2,000 jobs.

Speculation over his successor is already intense.

Many believe that Patten will want to bolster his legacy by appointing the first female director general.

The leading femme contenders are the BBC’s chief operating office Caroline Thomson and head of news Helen Boaden.

Sophie Turner Laing, the BSkyB topper who used to run BBC acquisitions, is also being talked of as a possible contender for the most important job in British media.

But the favorite to succeed Thompson is BBC head of vision George Entwistle.

Entwistle’s supporters say he has the kind of strategic abilities needed to redefine the pubcaster’s role in a rapidly converging digital landscape.