Wanted: New chairman to guide BBC in time of 'regulatory change'

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There was no mention of Alastair Campbell, the Today programme or the fact that the previous chairman and his chief executive had been forced to fall on their swords.

Instead, yesterday's newspaper advertisement for a new BBC chairman focused on the positive: the £81,320 salary in return for a four-day week. The quarter-page advert did address the question of something called "The Hutton Report" but gave no more details except to say that the successful candidate "will need to respond to its conclusions".

In a coded warning, potential applicants were told this was a time of "regulatory change" for the BBC which included a review of "the Charter". If that wasn't enough to deter a captain of industry looking for a high-profile sinecure, the advert went on to insist all applicants have the "credibility to act as an effective link between the BBC, government and parliament".

The advert may not have used the words "poisoned" and "chalice" but few of the leading contenders will regard the chairmanship as anything else. Even so, the BBC news website yesterday suggested a number of "high-profile media figures" who it thought might be brave enough to take the job.

Heading the list is Baroness Jay of Paddington, "a serious candidate for the chairman's job three years ago" whose New Labour credentials include a stint as leader of the Lords, said the website

Next is David Dimbleby, one of the "best-known figures in TV political journalism" and presenter and chairman of BBC 1's flagship discussion programme, Question Time.

Other names on the list are: Patricia Hodgson, the former chief executive of the now-defunct Independent Television Commission; Michael Portillo, the former Defence Secretary and Tory MP who was once seen as a future leader of the Conservative party, and Richard Lambert, the former editor of the Financial Times, who headed the government investigation into BBC News 24, the corporation's rolling news channel, last year.

One of the new chairman's first jobs will be to choose a director general to take Greg Dyke's job. The BBC lists possible candidates for that position too. The favourite is Mark Byford, who stepped in to steady the BBC ship as its acting director general after Mr Dyke's resignation.

Next is Mark Thompson, whom the BBC website says was once regarded as the "director general's heir apparent" before leaving the BBC in 2001 to become the chief executive of Channel 4.

Dawn Airey is currently the managing director of Sky networks after vacating her post of chief executive at Five in 2002.

Lorraine Heggessey, controller of BBC 1, is also named as a contender. She is "revitalising the network in its fight back against ITV1's dominance in entertainment and drama - notably with a feisty EastEnders and dramas such as Clocking Off and Cutting It". The final contender posted on the BBC' website is Jenny Abramsky, the director of BBC Radio and Music.

The chairmanship selection process is being scrutinised by a second panel drawn up by the commissioner for public appointments.

The Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell, said it would not be right to choose someone actively political but added she was reluctant to rule out those with past political affiliations.

Applications must be in by the end of the month, and a decision is expected by mid-April.