While Venice's Film Festival still awaits the official appointment of a new artistic director, the Lido is about to see the first Venice International Television Festival kick off in high style.

The TV festival will open its doors to the industry and the public from March 21 to 25, in the island's historic Palazzo del Cinema which has housed the Venice Film Festival since 1937.

The debut event's program, which was unveiled by artistic director Marlene Sternbaum, includes a multi-genre European competition, an International Highlights sidebar dedicated to Israel and the U.S., and a special focus on Canada. Each section contains a wide number of European premieres.

Also on offer are a series of panels, with speakers representing Europe's major TV broadcasters, producers and directors, as well as politicians and academics; and the Venice Pitchings, designed to promote international co-productions.

The festival's competition line up has been divided into four sections: fiction, documentaries, animated cartoons and formats. The fiction competition includes Alfonso Arau's The Magnificent Ambersons as well as Peter Patzak's Austrian film Die Wasserfalle Von Slunj, Russian director Georgy Shengelia's The Dustman, France's Motus by Laurence Ferriera Barbosa and the UK's When I Was Twelve by Dominic Savage.

Uli Edel's US film King Of Texas will have its European premiere in the International Highlights section, alongside Robeert Dornheim's Anne Frank which stars Ben Kingsley and Israeli film A Trumpet In The Wadi by Lina and Slava Chaplin.

Italian TV producer Adriano Arie is president of the festival, while Italian director Lina Wertmuller, who recently completed Francesca E Nunziata, a TV movie with Sofia Loren and Giancarlo Giannini, is honorary president.

The event was organiSed by VeneziaFiere, with the support of Italy's national independent television producers association APT, the Italian Parliament and Venice's local government.