The BBC Trust has begun the process to find the next Director General of the BBC, even though current postholder Mark Thompson has not announced plans to leave.
Trust chairman Lord Patten has confirmed a firm of headhunters have been appointed to scope out the type of candidates that would be required for the job.
Thompson has been in post since 2004 and has overseen the start of around £700m worth of cutbacks under the Delivering Quality First (DQF) programme.
There have been suggestions he may stand down after the London 2012 Olympics this summer.
But Lord Patten insisted in an interview with The Times that Mr Thompson would keep the role as long as he wanted. “He’s now embarked on what is the biggest year in the BBC’s history, with the Diamond Jubilee and Cultural Olympiad, the Olympics, Paralympics and so on,” he said. “So long as he wishes to remain Director-General, he will remain so and a very good one.”
Lord Patten added: “But we can’t simply ignore the importance of developing what they call in the corporate world our bench strength. I want us to be able, when the time comes, to have an intelligent view of who are possible successors and where successors should come from and what sort of job we would want them to be doing.”
The Guardian says former Radio 4 Controller and Radio Academy chair Helen Boaden is one name likely to be in the list of potential internal candidates for the DG job – along with BBC Vision director Geoge Entwistle, chief operating officer Caroline Thompson and BBC North director Pete Salmon.