CBC boss Heather Conway to leave public broadcaster for ‘other opportunities’
Heather Conway, a former marketing executive, was instrumental in implementing CBC’s “digital-first” strategy
TORONTO – The woman in charge of CBC’s English-language TV, radio, and online services is leaving the public broadcaster.
Heather Conway says she will “pursue other opportunities” after five years overseeing all platforms, including CBC-TV, CBC News Network, CBC Radio One and Two and CBC.ca.
Conway was appointed executive vice president of CBC’s English Services in 2013, and went on to oversee its shift to a “digital-first” strategy endorsed by then-president Hubert Lacroix.
Her tenure included the dramatic fall of CBC Radio star Jian Ghomeshi, and a damning 2015 report into the CBC’s handling of the Ghomeshi case that castigated management for failing to investigate reports of inappropriate behaviour in the workplace.
Conway acknowledged lawyer Janice Rubin’s findings but insisted that CBC management was committed to taking seriously issues of workplace harassment.
CBC says Conway will remain in her role until Dec. 7.
“It has been a privilege to serve Canadians and Canadian creators and to lead the incredible public broadcasters who work at CBC. The experience and the CBC will be with me always, as the CBC always has been and should always be for all of us,” Conway said Monday in a release.
Conway, a former marketing executive whose past stints included the Art Gallery of Ontario and T.D. Bank Financial Group, had no programming experience when she joined a broadcaster grappling with poor TV ratings, a softened advertising market and stiff competition from private rival networks.
Cuts to staff and budget followed, including an especially heavy blow in 2014 when the broadcaster cut 657 jobs and slashed $130 million from its 2014-15 budget while gutting CBC Sports and reducing local news coverage.
Since then, there have been bright spots for CBC-TV including hits “Schitt’s Creek” and “Kim’s Convenience,” while current CBC/Radio-Canada president Catherine Tait touted Conway for spearheading a company-wide digital transformation that has doubled CBC’s online reach.
But the watchdog group Friends of Canadian Broadcasting was wary of Conway’s pursuit of younger viewers and scaled-back regional coverage.
“That is code for: We are behaving like a private broadcaster, we are delivering audiences to advertisers,” spokesman Ian Morrison said at the time.
Ghomeshi was acquitted in March 2016 of four counts of sexual assault and one count of choking involving three women. In May 2016, he apologized to a fourth complainant, former co-worker Kathryn Borel, and signed a peace bond that saw another count of sexual assault withdrawn.