SilvioBerlusconi's government has announced that Italian state broadcaster RAI willbe partly privatised before the end of the year.

"RAI'sprivatisation is something positive. It will help propel forward therestructuring of the company, which is already underway," said ItalianTreasury minister Domenico Siniscalco. He added: "It is also a guaranteeagainst political interference."

Siniscalcorecommended that up to 30% of the broadcaster be privatised by December 2005.

The state broadcaster, whose board members are appointedby the Italian parliament, has been gripped by political turmoil fordecades. A series of RAI presidents andboard members have resigned in the last few years, citing unacceptablepolitical pressures and internal power struggles.

In 2002,three top RAI personalities - Michele Santoro, Daniele Luttazzi and Enzo Biagi- were removed from the airwaves, after being critical of Berlusconi in therun-up to the 2001 national elections. They have still not been reinstated,despite the national uproar caused by their dismissal.

Shortlybefore their removal Berlusconi had said the three RAI personalities should befired because their use of state-run television had been "criminal."

Meanwhile,unconfirmed media reports suggest that RAI Cinema, the broadcaster's film unit,and TV drama unit Rai Fiction could each see their budget cut by Euros 10mahead of the privatisation.