Franco Scaglia, a former RAI manager, has been named thenew president of RAI Cinema, in a series of controversial politicalappointments at RAI which have led the broadcaster's president, LucianaAnnunziata, to dramatically resign.

FrancoScaglia, a writer and former vice-president of the broadcaster's satellitechannel RAI Sat, will replace film director Giuliano Montaldo, who has chairedRAI Cinema since its creation in 2000.

Rai'sboard of directors also named Roberto De Anna, a former director of the LombardyFilm Commission, as vice president of Rai Cinema. Both De Anna and Scaglia arepolitically tied to Silvio Berlusconi's ruling Forza Italia party.

GiancarloLeone and Carlo Macchitella will remain in their positions as, respectively,CEO and general director of Rai Cinema.

Romeo AndJuliet film director Franco Zeffirelli had initially beenapproached to replace Montaldo, and had suggested that he would accept theprestigious role. (see, April 7, 2004 ). However,Zeffirelli recently backtracked and said that he had too many professionalcommitments to take on the job.

Zeffirelliis also believed to have been dissuaded after observers questioned hispotential conflict of interest, given that the director is expected to startshooting a long-gestating project called The Florentines for Rai Cinemain January 2005.

OnTuesday, Annunziata, a respected journalist who had been president of RAI for14 months, dramatically stepped down, after the company's board of directorsannounced the names of RAI's new management, which include a lengthy list ofBerlusconi political allies.

"Rai'sboard of directors has become nothing more than a mail box," she said,explaining that general director Flavio Cattaneo had simply sent RAI's board an18-page list of new managers that had been "hastily hand-written."

Annunziata,who had previously and publicly claimed that Berlusconi directly interfered inthe RAI's programming and management decisions, added:

"Theseappointments will completely change the whole set-up of the company, andhighlight external influence [on RAI]. All in all, they eliminate any kind ofinternal pluralism."

Lastmonth, Lili Gruber, RAI's top news anchorwoman, also resigned after working forthe broadcaster for 20 years. Like other top RAI journalists, Gruber claimedthat the broadcaster was blatantly tailoring the news to suit the governingcentre-right party.

Meanwhile, Italian president Carlo Azeglio Ciampi has signedthe newly-modified Gasparri media law, which is set to boost Berlusconi'scontrol of the airwaves. (see, 16 December 2003)