Italian cultural minister Giuliano Urbani has said that Italy is prepared to take action at government level to support Mifed against the onslaught of AFM.

"AFM has made an unfair attack on MIFED by blatantly moving its dates into MIFED's slot next year," Urbani said at a press conference at the Fiera on Monday.

"We will support MIFED in every way, although MIFED does not need the support of the government on a financial level," Urbani said, without offering any further details.

Meanwhile, Fiera Milano International (FMI) director Carlo Bassi said MIFED hopes to fight against AFM's onslaught by continuing to focus on the digital market as well as highly international films and TV formats.

Bassi underlined that MIFED will have 30 brand new screening rooms in 2005.

"It's important to note that buyers at AFM have to drive one hour to see films screening. At Mifed, everything is on site," he pointed out.

Bassi said this year's MIFED has seen a 15% increase in the number of buyers attending the market. Buyers from the Far East have increased by 15% while buyers from Eastern Europe are up 22% on last year.

He also said that 280 buyers attended this year's Saturday pre-screenings, compared to 100 last year.

Meanwhile, FMI, the Venice Biennale and the Italian government-owned Cinecitta Holding are currently busily setting up a new company that will become operational in January 2004.

Bassi, who has been appointed CEO of the new company, said it will be able to support MIFED by pooling together extensive resources from its three founding members.

The company also aims to set up a proper film market in Venice for films screening at the Venice Film Festival.