18/03/2012 02:42 GMT | Updated 17/05/2012 06:12 BST

Anna Ford Attacks BBC Director General Mark Thompson Over Alleged Ageism

Former newsreader Anna Ford has waded into the debate about ageism on television, accusing the BBC of "tokenism" and taking a swipe at Director-General Mark Thompson.

Appearing on Radio 4's Desert Island Discs, she told host Kirsty Young she would not go back in front of the camera.

When Young asked her about Mr Thompson's recent comments regretting the lack of older women on television, Ford said: "It's a bit late, isn't it? He's been here for a long time, he hasn't done a lot about it."

The issue came to a head at the corporation last year when former Countryfile presenter Miriam O'Reilly won an age discrimination case against the BBC after being rejected for a role on a revamped version of the show.

Ford said: "They have asked people like Julia Somerville back and I did bump into her recently and said 'Congratulations, I'm really pleased that you've taken this job' and she said 'Yes, I know, but I've only got 24 days a year on my contract'. It seems to me tokenism."

Ford, who read the news at ITN as well as the BBC in a long career, also discussed the early death of her husband, cartoonist Mark Boxer.

She said: "We'd just really got to know each and we were settling down in this wonderful house in west London and everything was wonderful so to have that whipped away was about the worst thing that could possibly happen to you and yet you cope with it because you've got to."

She also discussed her spat with novelist Martin Amis whom she accused - in an open letter to The Guardian - of neglecting his role as a godfather to her daughter after Boxer's death.

Ford said the letter was one of her "occasional bursts of spontaneity" and revealed that Amis had written "an extremely nice letter" to her daughter afterwards.

Ford, who famously inspired fellow newsreader Reginald Bosanquet to write her love poems while the pair were on air, said she was not "completely happy alone".

She said: "One of the difficulties of being famous is that the wrong men feel able to approach you and the right men wouldn't dream of approaching you because they think 'She'd never look at me' whereas I probably would."

Ford, a clergyman's daughter, declined to take the Bible which is routinely given to castaways and opted to take a book of poetry.