But there might be something in that non-attributed remark. It may reflect a rare situation for such a senior post - an open contest. Too often, the notion of 'heir apparents' is little more than a euphemism for ensuring the smooth succession by a particular minority: in the case of organisations like the BBC, the serried ranks of Oxbridge white males who've been groomed for high office. However, the recent successes of BBC television have thrown up a number of candidates whose trajectories are not the familiar ones. And what is striking is not just that the temporary person in charge is a woman but so many of the senior people in the frame are female, whether they are the controllers of the main channels or heads of programme departments.
Or even candidates from across the pond who missed out on Channel 4. The chances of the new Mark Thompson being a woman must be high.
I suspect, however, there is unlikely to be serious competition for Mark's job from ethnic minorities. Of course, the advances made in gender equality were always going to be quicker - the talent pool is hugely bigger. But now, almost 50 years after the first migrations, the lack of any real progress is pretty disappointing. Perhaps what's needed is to pick up the apparently discarded 'heir apparents' approach and apply it to ethnic minorities. By identifying early and managing the career paths of talented young programme-makers from Britain's ethnic communities, and so grooming them for success, there may develop a pool of candidates for top jobs by the end of the decade. Greg Dyke famously said that the BBC was 'hideously white' at its senior levels.
For the moment, the appointment of the new Mark Thompson is unlikely to change that.
Samir Shah is managing director of Juniper.