Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's government is trying to push through a polemical new conflict-of-interest law, days before it is due to appoint a new board of directors for state broadcaster Rai, the main rival to the premier's multi-billion dollar media empire.

The proposed law states that the national watchdog should monitor potential conflicts between the personal and public interests of government officials and report any violations to Parliament, which would then debate political sanctions such as annulling government acts judged to have been made in personal interest.

However, the proposed law was immediately met with heavy criticism by Berlusconi's opponents, as it would not force violators to sell any assets or pay fines, nor would it bring about sanctions against companies.

Calling it a "joke law which has no precedent in any other country," centre-left politicians also criticised the proposal of allowing government officials who violate the conflict-of-interest law a temporary "amnesty" until they leave office.

It was not immediately clear when the proposal will now be debated by Parliament.

While Berlusconi is under pressure to resolve the conflict-of-interest issue before his government appoints Rai's new management, opponents remain heavily sceptical about a solution that doesn't involve a sale of Mediaset.

Nevertheless, despite repeated rumours of private meetings with Rupert Murdoch over a potential sale, Berlusconi has so far not given any signals that he aims to divest himself of his business empire.

This includes Mediaset, Italy's three largest private television networks which are headed by Fedele Confalonieri and Berlusconi's son Piersilvio; Medusa, Italy's leading production and distribution company which is headed by Berlusconi's daughter Marina, who is also vice-president of his media empire Fininvest; and a number of publishing, advertising, investment and real estate companies.