Equalities minister Harriet Harman has accused the BBC of "wasting a lot of talent" and upsetting viewers by not valuing older female newsreaders.
Harman, who is also Labour's deputy leader, said female BBC news presenters had to be 10 years younger than their male counterparts. She told the Radio 4's The World This Weekend today: "It's an old-fashioned attitude that thinks you can't value the experience and wisdom of an older woman."
Harman's intervention comes after the BBC pledged to appoint a female newsreader over 50 in a bid to defuse an ageism row. She said: "I think the broadcast media finds it possible to value the older man, but I don't think they find it possible to value the older woman."
"A former senior BBC executive said to me: 'The way we saw it was that as male presenters got older they become an authority and as female presenters got older they became a problem.'" She added: "They should be very careful about it and I think they should be anxious and worried. They're annoying a lot of viewers."
In 2007, the corporation came under fire for dropping Moira Stuart, then aged 58, from her Sunday AM slot after more than 30 years as a BBC newsreader. The axing of Arlene Phillips, 66, who was replaced as a Strictly Come Dancing judge by 30-year-old Alesha Dixon, sparked fresh accusations of ageism last year.
A BBC spokesperson said: "We strive to reflect as broad a range of diversity as possible to ensure we represent our audience. Kirsty Wark, Maxine Mawhinney and Martha Kearney regularly feature on BBC TV and radio, as well as presenters including Gloria Hunniford and Jennie Bond."
Article from The Guardian