BBC3 controller Damian Kavanagh leads chase for top programmes job at Channel 4

Executive is believed to top the shortlist of candidates to take over from Jay Hunt who left her post last Friday

Damian Kavanagh 2017

BBC3 controller Damian Kavanagh is understood to be the leading candidate to take over from Jay Hunt as the top creative oinerson at Channel 4.

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Hunt left the broadcaster’s Horseferry Road building on Friday after more than six years in charge. The search for her successor as chief creative officer is well underway with Kavanagh a firm favourite according to senior sources close to the process.

He is believed to have impressed bosses at the channel with his handling of BBC3’s move online 18 months ago as well as its engagement with younger audiences.

Hits on BBC3 include the drama Thirteen as well as comedies such as People Just Do Nothing and Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag.

“Fleabag is a show Channel 4 would have dearly loved and he seems the man of the moment – someone who has learned a lot about digital engagement while also having the programme commissioning pedigree a channel like C4 needs,” said a source.

Recent figures have shown that the channel is on course to reach its audience target of 10 per cent of all viewers aged 16-34 by 2020. Currently that figure stands at 8.5 per cent of people within that age range.

When asked by RadioTimes.com earlier this month whether he had applied for the post, Kavanagh declined to confirm whether or not he was in the running for the role or if he had submitted an application.

He said: “I am staying with BBC3 for the foreseeable. I absolutely love it. It’s a massively creative place.”

Some sources say that the recruitment process could still throw up a few surprises at this late stage with the Channel 4 board still running the rule over other candidates.

The post will also have to be rubber-stamped by C4’s incoming chief executive Alex Mahon who starts in November and who is leading the decision making over the appointment.  She is understood to already be directly involved in the strategy over the decision and is working with a team of headhunters. An announcement is expected long before she starts formally.

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A Channel 4 spokesman declined to be drawn on the speculation: “No appointment has been made and the recruitment process is ongoing.”