Helen Boaden London - Arabstoday The BBC could have its first female director general by the end of this year following Mark Thompson's departure, according to TV industry and corporation insiders. Lobbying for the job of BBC director general of the BBC is expected to begin in earnest following MediaGuardian's revelation late on Thursday that Thompson was planning to step down at the end of the year or the beginning of 2013. Officially the BBC is saying there is no vacancy yet as Thompson has not confirmed a departure date, but potential candidates are understood to be seeking to raise their profiles in preparation for having a tilt at the most important job in British broadcasting and already two women have joined the leading pack of contenders. The BBC's chief operating officer, Caroline Thomson, is the second favourite to land the job, according to bookmakers Paddy Power, which put her chances at 2-1 behind the favourite, the BBC director of vision, George Entwistle, whose odds are 7-4. A second leading female candidate is the BBC's director of news, Helen Boaden, who has odds of 9-2 according to Paddy Power. Boaden has a number of backers in the industry including the former BBC2 controller Jane Root. Root, who left the BBC for a job with the Discovery network and now runs her own independent production company, Nutopia, has ruled herself out of applying for the post but told MediaGuardian: "Helen is a very strong candidate and I would love to see her get the job." Boaden would not comment when approached by the Guardian. However there are a range of other potential candidates in the race for the most important job in broadcasting which industry insiders believe is perhaps the most wide-open contest in modern times. By contrast, when the job last became vacant, Thompson was seen as hot favourite, assuming he could be talked into applying. ITV's director of programmes, Peter Fincham, is also tipped following a successful tenure at the commercial broadcaster. However his chances are said to be hampered by the fact he left the BBC under a cloud, resigning as controller of BBC1 in the wake of the "Crowngate" editing row. The Channel 4 chief executive, David Abraham, is said by colleagues to have always coveted the post and is thought to be a strong candidate. The director of BBC North, Peter Salmon, is also regarded highly inside the BBC and may stand an outside chance of getting the job, according to BBC insiders. "He is a born leader, who will bring the staff with him," said a very senior former BBC employee. "I would see him as a more likely candidate that Caroline Thomson, say and he has handled the move to Salford well." Traditionally the BBC's regulatory body – the trust, formerly known as the Board of Governors – have also looked abroad for candidates, especially from the US. In 1999 when the BBC governors were looking to replace Lord Birt, Michael Lynton, now the chairman and chief executive of Sony Pictures Entertainment, was thought to have made the shortlist. The job eventually went to Greg Dyke. "I think to really understand the BBC you have to be British," said another senior broadcasting source. However this would not rule out another candidate, Michael Jackson, the former channel 4 chief executive, who has been based in the US in recent years. One stumbling block, however, is the question of remuneration with the chairman of the BBC Trust, Lord Patten, making it clear that the BBC will reduce the current director general salary of £671,000 in future. "Will this mean they can get somebody of the calibre they want?" said another senior broadcaster thought to be in possible contention for the role. "Or will it be someone who wants to do the job in spite of the low remuneration?" The BBC would not be drawn on speculation about the timing of Thompson's announcement and in particular claims from one senior former BBC executive who wondered whether Thompson hand was forced by Patten's announcement earlier this week that he had appointed an international firm of headhunters to produce a "succession plan". The former executive told the Guardian: "It is likely that his hand was forced a bit by Patten saying that he was engaged in the search for another DG. I think Mark wanted to stay for around two years and that his hand may have been forced a bit by this. "This is the best sport for governors – choosing director generals – and if you want a change you will want it sooner rather than later. Also, Mark is in place and with these sorts of jobs the person who was there first is the most powerful. In some ways it is an old-fashioned power struggle." BBC insiders denied that claim, saying that there is no suggestion that Thompson was pushed out. But while many within the organisation are now briefing about Thompson's departure, the BBC's only on-record response is this statement: "Whilst speculation is inevitable, as the BBC chairman has made clear earlier this week this is sensible succession planning and does not signal an immediate vacancy." Root added she didn't consider herself a candidate. She said: "I would absolutely not want to do it even if approached. It is one of the most difficult jobs in the country and I live in America and I wouldn't even think about it. "