Five consumer and public interest groups told the CRTC they oppose BCE Inc.'s proposed acquisition of Astral Media Inc. The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC), which advocates for consumers and acts as counsel for the Consumers’ Association of Canada, Council of Senior Citizens’ Organization of British Columbia, National Pensioners and Senior Citizens Federation, and Option consommateurs, filed an intervention with the regulator that said the merger should be denied because it is not in the public interest. The groups said the proposed transaction would increase media concentration in the hands of Bell and reduce the diversity of voices in the Canadian broadcasting system by removing Astral, “the largest remaining, non-integrated, independent broadcaster.” PIAC said the merger would result in less competition, less consumer choice and flexibility in television packaging, and price increases for basic TV service. “Increased media concentration into the hands of few large vertically integrated telecommunications and media companies will not result in more competition in the market,” John Lawford, PIAC's executive director and general counsel, said in a statement. “The loss of Astral in the marketplace does not deliver more competition for consumers. Any increases to Bell’s size will further threaten the ability of independent broadcasters and broadcasting distributors to effectively compete against the highly concentrated, tight oligopoly of large media companies that own both broadcasting and distribution services,” he said. The CRTC is consulting on the merger in advance of a public hearing in May. Last fall, the commission denied Bell's first proposal to purchase Astral, citing concerns about competition and market concentration. Bell and Astral then filed a second, reworked application. The Competition Bureau said on March 4 that it approved the deal under a condition to sell off 12 pay and specialty channels.