A number of external candidates have emerged as contenders to become ITV’s next head of factual, including BBC4 controller Richard Klein.

The post became available after the departure of Ali Sharman, previously director of factual and daytime, whose responsibilities are being split in two.

Klein has been touted as a frontrunner for the position by several senior sources, who indicated that the former head of BBC documentaries has had conversations with ITV director of TV Peter Fincham.

“Richard’s been unhappy with the cuts made to BBC4 and doesn’t feel it’s quite going in the direction he’d like it to. It’s become very clear that the BBC wants to make it an arts channel,” said one BBC source.

Klein is thought to be in competition with a number of other external candidates as well as ITV head of popular factual Jo Clinton- Davis. Clinton-Davis is credited with ordering more high-end documentaries for the main channel, including arts strand Perspectives, Inside Death Row With Trevor McDonald and Royal Paintbox.

Other names being linked to the position include former Discovery executive Simon Andreae, BBC factual features and formats commissioner Alison Kirkham and former Channel 4 head of factual entertainment and features Sue Murphy.

Andreae, a former C4 commissioner, who recently left Discovery, is thought to be keen to return to the UK and is understood to have expressed an interest in the post. Murphy is currently creative director at All3Media’s Optomen and worked with key talent at C4, including Gordon Ramsay, Gok Wan, Kirsty Allsop and Phil Spencer.