A female newsreader hired by the BBC to combat accusations of ageism has branded her appointment "nothing more than a PR stunt" after she was given just one presenting shift in three months.

Carole Walker was one of four female news presenters aged over 50 taken on by the BBC amid controversy over the sacking of Strictly Come Dancing judge Arlene Phillips, now 67, and Countryfile presenter Miriam O'Reilly, 54, who went on to win an age discrimination case against the corporation.

In a letter to the BBC's inhouse magazine, Ariel, Walker, 51, criticised Mark Thompson, the BBC's director–general, for failing to deliver on promises to increase the number of older women on screen.

She wrote: "It is now 16 months since the BBC announced I was to be one of four older women presenters on the BBC News channel.

"Last year I was given fewer than 20 days in the role. This year so far I have been given one presenting shift. Those who warned the initiative was nothing more than a PR stunt after the Miriam O'Reilly tribunal are being proved right.

"I would be more impressed by Mark Thompson's latest pledge to find more opportunities for older women if he had delivered on his previous promises on the issue."

Walker's comments will be a blow to Mr Thompson, who has been trying to improve the BBC's record on ageism.

It is understood that Walker's frustrations are shared by other older female presenters. Walker was named as a BBC News channel presenter late in 2009, along with Zeinab Badawi, 51, Fiona Armstrong, 54, and Julia Somerville, 63.

A BBC spokesman said: "We were surprised at Carole's letter. Last year she was given the number of shifts we had agreed with her.

"We were fully intending to do the same this year, while working around her job as a full–time BBC political correspondent and her leave requirements, which have stopped her taking up all the shifts she's been offered."

Older actresses are restricted to sitcoms if their name is not Dame Helen Mirren, claims Caroline Quentin. The star of Men Behaving Badly, who turned 50 last year, said she had given up hope of serious roles. "There's no place for me in serious drama," she said. "As a woman you can be funny and 50, but you can't do much else, unless you're Helen Mirren." 

Article from The Telegraph