BBC coverage of the Coronation and Spring Budget could be hit after more than 80 per cent of union members voted to take strike action in protest at local radio cuts.

NUJ members working for BBC England voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action against the BBC’s plans to merge some local radio shows.

The journalists’ union said 83 per cent of union members who voted in the ballot backed strike action, with the remaining 17 per cent voting against the proposal.

Insiders said industrial action could target coverage of the March 15 Budget and the Coronation in May with 24-hour walk-outs, in order to cause maximum disruption for BBC bosses.

However those events are unlikely to be seriously affected, others said. Regional 6.30pm television bulletins of BBC News and regular local radio programming could be taken off air though.

The union members rejected a revised version of the BBC plans to share more local radio programming across its regions in afternoons, evenings and weekends.

The number of local shows will be increased but the cost-cutting proposals would still result in an expected net loss of 48 roles.

The BBC said it would “modernise” local services by boosting online content and has told staff that the headcount will remain the same.

No dates have yet been given for strike action. The union said: “The door remains open for the BBC to engage in constructive discussions.

Last month, NUJ national broadcasting organiser Paul Siegert said there was “real anger” about the corporation’s plans which would “completely undermine the BBC’s public service remit and take the ‘local’ out of local radio”.

NUJ members at BBC Northern Ireland also recently voted in favour of potential strike action in a consultative ballot over planned cuts to jobs and programmes.

Separately, NUJ members working for the BBC have said its chairman, Richard Sharp, must resign for failing to disclose his role as a go-between for a loan to the then Prime Minister at a time when Sharp was applying for the corporation’s top job.

The call, based on a snapshot poll of 1,000 members, reflects discontent among BBC News staff at Sharp’s involvement. An independent investigation into the process surrounding Sharp’s appointment is soon to report.

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