Former BBC newsreader Michael Buerk says presenters should not be hired just because they tick the right diversity boxes.

He was speaking on ITV1′s Tonight programme for a discussion on ageism at the BBC.

Former Countryfile presenter Miriam O’Reilly, who will present tonight’s programme, recently won an age discrimination tribunal case against the corporation.

Buerk said: “If you’ve been hired because you are young and pretty, because you are mincingly camp, because you’ve ticked a particular ethnic box and then you are no longer young and pretty or the fashions have moved on and you suddenly don’t have a job – get over it. It’s showbusiness.

He added: “The problem is that at the other extreme of the argument.

“The idea of putting people on television – which is a non-job, that is terribly well paid, where you don’t have to think too much, or work too hard – and giving people those jobs purely on the ground that we need another six Asians, or we need another six lesbians, or we need another six pensioners, is to my mind almost worse.”

The BBC received complaints in December for broadcasting an interview with extremist Christian preacher Stephen Green.

He was interviewed over his views on Elton John becoming a father, despite having approved of the death penalty for gays and lesbians.

Too Old For TV? will be broadcast this evening.