THE BBC is expected to cut up to 600 jobs in news and radio.

Reports suggest the broadcaster will shed the posts in the latest phase of a cost cutting exercise which began three years ago.

The BBC refused to comment on the reports last night, but it is understood up to 500 jobs will go in BBC News, with a further 80 posts to be lost in radio.

Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), said: "Cutting 500 jobs in areas of news that are badly over-stretched, where staff are already suffering unacceptably high levels of stress and pressure is wholly unacceptable and will inevitably damage the quality of journalism and programming.

"NUJ members are already gearing up to ballot for industrial action over what the BBC has tried to pass off as a pay offer."

James Harding, director of news and current affairs, is expected to hold open sessions with staff in due course to discuss the cuts.

A spokesman for the NUJ in Scotland, where some progress had been made with bosses, described the proposed job losses as "shocking". He said: "This is just pouring oil on the already simmering fire."

The spokesman added that any job losses in Scotland would depend on what happens in the independence referendum.

A BBC spokeswoman said: "We're working at present to deliver savings of £800m a year by 2016/17 and we have said there are difficult decisions ahead. While we need to make savings it would be wrong to comment on speculation."