Channel 4 has been in talks with Jonathan Ross with a view to the presenter returning to the station where he began his broadcasting career after his contract with the BBC ends in July.
The discussions were confirmed by Julian Bellamy, the Channel 4 head of programmes, who is engaged in commissioning new formats as the organisation undergoes a process of "creative renewal" following the decision to drop Big Brother from the schedules.
"I'm a huge fan. I think he's a brilliant talent. He's a friend of the channel, he started at the channel. Certainly we are in touch, and let's see where it goes," said Bellamy. "It would be wrong for me to go into too much detail, but I would certainly say that we've been in touch. We know Jonathan well, he did a great thing for us at Christmas, The Big Fat Quiz. So let's see what happens."
Ross, 49, announced last month that he would not be attempting to renegotiate his £6m-a-year BBC contract. BBC executives, who had been discomfited by a wave of criticism over Ross's salary and broadcasting style, said they "understood" why he had made the decision.
But Channel 4, with its mandate to be controversial and attract a younger audience, operates by different rules. Ross began his career with the channel a generation ago, presenting The Last Resort with Jonathan Ross. Recently he has returned to Channel 4 as a guest on its Christmas quiz show, where he appeared with Russell Brand, with whom he was embroiled in controversy following their obscene telephone calls to the actor Andrew Sachs on Brand's Radio 2 show in 2008. Sources close to Ross said that in the period after he leaves the BBC, the presenter would take an extended break with his family before considering his working options.