Graeme Mason, Universal Pictures' former president of acquisitions, has emerged as a candidate to head Channel 4's new film unit if he and the channel agree on a structure for the operation.

Mason has until now been seen as an unlikely candidate to head Channel 4's scaled-back film unit, which was considered too parochial and arthouse-oriented for the ex-US studio executive. But London-based Mason is already advising Channel 4 on dismantling its stand-alone division in Soho, signalling that Channel 4 chief Mark Thompson is considering him as a candidate.

Thompson is still undecided on the details of his film policy four months after announcing he was closing down Paul Webster's FilmFour. The channel has said only that it has earmarked $15.6m (£10m) a year for film and wants to return to the grassroots filmmaking that characterised early successes such as My Beautiful Laundrette and Letter To Brezhnev.

If that means auteur-friendly specialist cinema, former Pathe Pictures production chief Andrea Calderwood has long been seen as the front runner. Her credits range from critical hit Ratcatcher to low-budget, commercial success Mrs Brown.

But Thompson is also considering a more commercially-oriented unit which might try to draw on Mason's contacts with companies such as Universal co-owned Working Title Films, which has been churning out hits through its low budget division WT2. Other options could see Thompson channelling the $15.6m (£10m) a year earmarked for film into the budget of drama chief Tessa Ross. Potential internal candidates include Robin Gutch, the well-regarded head of low-budget wing FilmFour Lab, which is to survive the cuts.