In a move that had been expected for the past few months, Mark Thompson announced his exit this afternoon in a letter to staff. “This morning I told (BBC chairman) Lord Patten that I believe that an appropriate time for me to hand over to a successor and to step down as Director-General of the BBC would be the autumn of this year, once the Olympics and the rest of the amazing summer of 2012 are over,” Thompson wrote. “I have told the Chairman that I believe that he and the Trust should begin the public process of finding the next DG as soon as they see fit,” he added. The Guardian opines that Thompson’s exit could see the first female DG at the BBC, with COO Caroline Thomson and head of news Helen Boaden among the names circulating internally. BBC Vision chief George Entwistle is also said to be a candidate. Thompson noted that his eight-year stint atop the broadcaster made him the longest-serving DG since the 1970s. “We’ve weathered a series of lively storms and been through some trying as well as some very successful times together,” he said. The BBC has been faced with austerity measures in recent years. The latest cost-cutting scheme, Delivering Quality First, kicked in last year after TV license fees were frozen until 2017 meaning a big drop in revenues.