Channel 4 ramps up chief executive hunt

Thursday, October 15 2009, 13:36 BST

By Andrew Laughlin,

Channel 4 has stepped up its search for a new chief executive, with ITV's Carolyn Fairbairn and BBC chief operating officer Caroline Thomson said to be in the running.

According to The Guardian, Warner Bros UK head Josh Berger is also being considered by the Channel 4 board to replace incumbent Andy Duncan, who recently confirmed that he will leave the post before the end of 2009.

Recruitment firm Egon Zehnder is currently compiling a shortlist of candidates for the role, which could include Ashley Highfield, the former BBC digital chief who is now managing Microsoft's UK operation.

Before joining ITV as director of strategy and development in 2007, Fairbairn worked on the development of Freeview in her capacity as the BBC's director of strategy. She also previously worked as a policy advisor at Downing Street.

Thompson worked at Channel 4 in the 1980s, rising to the role of head of corporate affairs before decamping to the BBC. As part of her current role at the corporation, she has overseen work on the digital switchover and the BBC's ongoing digital strategy.

In December 2006, Berger was promoted to managing director of Warner Bros UK and Ireland after spending 17 years working his way up at the firm.

Other possible candidates for the role include UKTV chief executive David Abraham, Discovery Channel US chief Jane Root and former BBC One controller Lorraine Heggessey, who is now in charge at TalkBack Thames.

ITV director of television Peter Fincham is an outside bet for the role, although he is also under consideration for the ITV top job after leading candidate Tony Ball dropped out of the running.

Alternatively, Channel 4 could go for an internal candidate by promoting its director of television and content Kevin Lygo.

Outgoing Channel 4 chairman Luke Johnson, who is leading the search to replace Duncan, has already stated his preference for a candidate with "digital experience".