Franco Bernabe, president of the Biennale Venice film festival is believed to be close to naming Piera Detassis, editor of the film magazine Ciak (owned by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi), and Pierluigi Celli, former CEO of RAI, as joint artistic directors of the Venice film festival.

According to Italian press reports which quoted "inside sources", Bernabe has already communicated his decision to Culture Minister Giuliano Urbani and an official announcement is thought to be imminent.

Celli, a fiery and controversial figure, is currently head of Ipse, an Italian telecoms operator. He was at the helm of RAI from 1998 to 2001 when he quit, raising a political storm after heavily criticising the state broadcaster as being "ungovernable" and urging the centre-left government, which was in place at the time, to privatise the broadcaster.

An inside source was quoted in press reports as saying: "Celli will act as the festival's manager and help revitalise the event. He will aim to re-launch the Italian film industry through the Venice film festival, and will work side by side with someone of great expertise, like Piera Detassis, as well as a team of experienced cinema professionals."

Reports of the appointments follow a threat made by Italy's national producers association on Monday (March 11), to boycott Venice and not allow any Italian films to be shown on the Lido unless new management is put in place at the festival before the end of this week.

However, the appointment of Celli and Detassis, if confirmed, is likely to raise new concerns. With just five months to go before the start of the festival, most industry professionals believe that only a director with technical experience of running such an event, with strong contacts with both US studios and international distributors could now feasibly take on the job.

Furthermore, Detassis's appointment is also likely to raise concerns over potential favouritism in the festival's line up, due to her current high-profile role as editor-in-chief of Ciak, the popular monthly film magazine which is owned by Berlusconi, who also owns leading film financier and distributor, Medusa Film.