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Mergers a necessity, Quebecor tells CRTC

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TORONTO -- Quebec cable giant Quebecor Media on Tuesday told the country's TV watchdog that preventing the future merger of Canadian broadcasters will open the industry to lethal competition from American media goliaths.

"We're such a tiny little player that the problem in Canada is the risk is that we will be swamped from elsewhere," Quebecor Media spokesman Luc Lavoie told the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission on the second day of public hearings into media concentration in Canada.

"What we have to worry about is, are we equipped as a member of the G-8 to face the swamp, the wave that is coming from those gigantic companies coming from elsewhere?" he questioned.

Lavoie argued that Canadian broadcasters need to get larger and stronger still after a spate of recent mergers if they want to compete with looming global giants.

"If we stop majors from growing or (having) the capacity of growing, we may just disqualify ourselves from the game being played on the planetary level," he told CRTC commissioners.

During Day 2 of the hearings, CRTC commissioners, led by chairman Konrad von Finckenstein, continued to question private broadcasters about the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.'s proposal that it re-impose rules on the number of media outlets broadcasters can have in any one market.

"We are very concerned about concentration, because it could lead to undue market power and so few voices. And that may affect our democratic system," von Finckenstein told broadcasters.

In response, private broadcasters reiterated opposition to a proposed Australian points system for Canada. Under that arrangement, media outlets would be given one point in a particular market and media groups that own too many outlets in a market would trigger an "unacceptable media diversity situation."

The CRTC hearings will continue until the end of the week in Ottawa.