The managing editor of BBC Radio Solent has been forced to apologise after a memo was leaked in which she appeared to make ageist comments about listeners.
Last week, a leaked email revealed that Mia Costello told staff: "I don't want to hear really elderly voices [on air]". In a letter to the Southern Daily Echo, Costello said: "I'm sorry that this caused offence and I can see why people are angry. I want to apologise. This was never my intention."
She dismissed suggestions that four presenters who had left the station in recent weeks were forced out because they were too old. Costello insisted that the departure of long-serving blind presenter Peter White (pictured) as because he was "not quite right for a busy Saturday morning" and Richard Cartridge made his departure because both he and Costello "agreed that it was time for change, for Solent and for him".
The NUJ had issued a statement demanding that the BBC return to its core values of public service broadcasting.
The union said: "The NUJ believes that BBC local radio offers a unique service to listeners and is under threat across the UK.
"Speech and specialist programmes in some areas are being axed in favour of homogenised music output. News programming is also under attack with many BBC stations now recording bulletins and cutting local reporters."
However, Costello argued that the greatest pressure for change at Radio Solent was coming from the over-65 audience. She said: "What they want, they tell me, are stories that reflect their lives now, in 2006. So, yes we must cover stories [such as] having to sell the family home to pay for care, and changes in the retirement age, but we must also be covering the latest in beauty products or flat-screen TVs."