Channel 4 seeks successor after Gardam announces he will leave at end of year

The director of television at Channel 4, Tim Gardam, is to leave the station at the end of the year, he said yesterday.

Mr Gardam, who joined Channel 4 five years ago, said: "I will have been director of programmes for five years this autumn and this has always been the maximum time I thought it sensible to do the job. My decision is partly for personal reasons, and I am announcing it now because I want to ensure there is a smooth succession and it leaves me free to consider various options without causing uncertainty here."

Mark Thompson, the chief executive, said: "Tim warned me some time ago he was unlikely to stay beyond 2003. He is an enormous creative force and will be a big loss."

Another senior figure at Channel 4 added: "Tim has decided for himself that he wants to go. He thinks five years is ample. He needs to do something different.

"This is genuinely what it appears to be. There has been no falling out, there has been no pressure to go. He is hugely admired by the board He has been talking about this for some time.

"One of the reasons for the timeframe [he won't be going until the end of the year] is that he wants to look around for an opening elsewhere - or, more likely, wait for someone to come to him. One of the things that is being looked at is a part-time job here, if that is what he wants."

Mr Gardam and Mr Thompson have faced accusations that the station has been "dumbing down" with a growing number of reality television programmes during their tenure. But there were no signs yesterday that Mr Gardam would end his career at the channel.

In October last year, Mr Thompson made nearly 200 employees redundant in what he described as "the most radical restructure in the channel's 20-year history". Mr Gardam was promoted from director of programmes to director of television.

The son of the acclaimed novelist Jane Gardam, he was turned down by the BBC for a place on its graduate trainee scheme after leaving Cambridge, allegedly for being "too frivolous". Soon after, though, he landed himself a contract at the corporation, staying there for two decades.

There, working alongside Mr Thompson, he forged a reputation as a talented current affairs executive with his skilful editing of programmes including Panorama and Newsnight. After leaving the BBC, he spent a brief stint at Channel 5, where he worked as the station's first controller of news, documentaries and current affairs, before joining Channel 4 in 1998.

Earlier this month, Mr Gardam called for an end to the BBC's monopoly over licence-fee income in a speech to the Royal Institute of British Architects.