New controversy has erupted over the control of Italian state broadcaster RAI after the parties in media mogul and prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's coalition were awarded the coveted top managerial jobs at RAI1 and RAI2 as well as their influential news programmes.

Coming almost two months after the Italian Parliament appointed a board to run RAI, the appointments raised fears that current affairs programming would be slanted in favour of the government.

The appointments have also renewed concern over the government's control of the airwaves: Silvio Berlusconi owns private broadcaster Mediaset, the main rival of RAI.

Of particular concern to critics is the fact that Umberto Bossi, the outspoken leader of the Northern League, has been handed effective control of RAI2 with the appointment of a political ally at the head of the channel. Bossi had previously threatened to veto any appointments if he wasn't given a channel to promote his "federalist" views.

While the opposition had clamoured for some of the coveted positions to ensure balanced coverage, the government's only concession to the centre-left has been RAI3, which has traditionally been in the hands of the left.

Fabrizio Del Noce, close to Berlusconi's Forza Italia party was named director of RAI1. Antonio Marano, linked to Bossi's Northern League, is head of RAI2. Paolo Ruffini, close to the centre-left Margherita party, is director of RAI3.

News programmes have been handed over to Clemente Mimun (Forza Italia), RAI 1; Mauro Mazza (right wing National Alliance) RAI2; and Antonio Di Bella (Democrats of the Left), RAI 3.

Appointments at RAI have always been part of the process of dividing political spoils. However, concern over the new appointments has been fuelled by the fact that during his election campaign Berlusconi repeatedly charged that RAI and its leading current affairs programs were slanted against him. Such comments have raised fears of future political censorship at RAI.