Heather Conway, Executive Vice President of English Services, CBC

Heather Conway, Executive Vice President of English Services, CBC


[Music] Heather Conway.
We had a good discussion last year and I thank you
for coming back.>>So, the number of women in the boardrooms has
been a hot topic in the recent years.
For example, the Ontario Securities Commission
is considering whether to mandate targets for the number of women
in director and executive roles for
public companies. As you have been a
member on several boards, have you ever
felt overpowered by the men on the boards and
do you think that this is an adequate
solution for the issue?>>I have been on
a few boards. I mean, I’ve been on a
number of volunteer boards and I’ve also been
on a couple of paid boards. I continue to be on the AMEX
Bank Board of Canada. It’s a non-publicly traded
board in Canada, but because it’s a bank,
you have to have a board. And I was on the Investors
Group Mackenzie board, which is one of the power
company boards. And I had to leave that board when I went to the CBC
because Power Corp owns La Presse and
I felt it was a possible perceived conflict
of interest, so I left. I would say not
overwhelmed, so much as outnumbered. I mean certainly the boards
are male-dominated. I do think that there have
been multiple studies, there’ve been multiple
commissions, there have been multiple efforts by Catalyst, by others to try and
increase the number of women on boards and it
hasn’t really happened. So, I think if you give everybody every opportunity to make a change and the
change doesn’t occur that you want to see, then you
have to move to a more structural solution. So, I do support the idea
of mandating that you get more women on boards. It’s also been shown that
when you have more women on boards, those companies
outperform on the stock market, so there is a link. You know, there’s lots
of companies that have put one woman on
the board – lots and lots – and then they’ve
replaced three men with another three men. So, it’s just not
happening at the pace that you want to see.>>Have you personally
felt any systemic barriers in the workplaces you have
been employed at and do you have any advice for
the women in the room who aspire to
become senior managers in the future?>>I think, you know, the
systemic issues are ones that exist whether they’re
in the workplace or whether they’re in society. I think often women’s
voices are not taken as seriously, I think often,
I’ve had the experience many times and I’m sure your other female guests, Ralph,
would have had this, as well, where you’re in a meeting, you say something,
three minutes later, some guy repeats
what you said and they go and
everyone goes, well what Jack said
is a great idea. And you go, I fucking said that. That’s not Jack.
That experience happens over and over again
and I’m not sure it’s any kind of malicious
intent on the part of men to say –
if you said to them, buddy, that wasn’t Jack’s idea, they genuinely go, oh. It’s not a thing that
people set out to do. It is a reflection, I think,
of a broader societal issue where positions
of authority and credibility are traditionally
held by certain groups and so, our expectation is that leadership and
authority and ideas that come from that
group that we see constantly portrayed
in those roles is real. And it’s how unconscious
bias happens. It’s how we start to believe certain things
that simply aren’t true. So, you know, have I been
the victim of that? For sure. What advice would I give you? Call it out. Call it out
whether you’re a guy or a woman.
You know, if you see it or you see it –
it often happens with people of colour
as well as women or people with disabilities. It happens with anyone
who’s traditionally underrepresented
in leadership roles. And I think if everybody
starts to just call it – and you can do it in a
really professional manner and just say, I just
want to check ourselves here, I’m
pretty sure that was actually so-and-so’s idea or I haven’t heard
so-and-so speak. Often, there are people
in the room who take up all the air and if you’re
not actually noticing and being vigilant about it, you’ll never hear from
certain people. And so, it’s a huge
opportunity to get more ideas, more intelligence
into any conversation if you’re very conscious
about what you’re doing about that kind of stuff.>>So, a study done
by the International Women’s Media
Foundation illustrated that close to two out of three female journalists
have been sexually harassed or faced
abuse during the course of their employment. Harassment included
verbal abuse and physical violence, in
addition to intimidation. Other problems women
face in the industry include achievements becoming
secondary to their successes and speaking
out about sexist or illegal behaviour
to be what is known as career suicide. What has CBC News
done differently internally within the
organization since the Jian Ghomeshi
incident to prevent these things from
happening to women and assist in promoting
the long overdue discussion about consent, harassment and sexism
that is very much present in the media industry?>>So, the first one is
around female journalists and how do we support
them as they go out and do their work
and are confronted by sometimes, you know, that terrible sort of
thing that started happening to a lot of
women journalists was the ‘grab her’ thing. We have offered to
all of our female journalists that if
they’re going to cover something where they
feel that their safety or their security is at risk,
that they have the right to have security
with them and we will provide that.
And we do. And some do ask for it and lots don’t, but it’s available
to them if they want it. In the post-Ghomeshi
environment at CBC – as most of you know,
I think, we had an independent investigator
who came in, called Janice Rubin, she did
a whole bunch of conversations with
people from CBC. She made a whole series
of recommendations around how we could
improve our approach to these
kinds of issues. And we’ve taken those on board. We’ve, I think, implemented
all of them at this point. So, there’s a number
of different things that are available to people. We gave retraining to all our managers and our HR people. Every CBC employee has to
complete mandatory code of conduct training. We created the Values
and Ethics Commissioner and a hotline so people
could call anonymously if they didn’t feel comfortable
going to their manager or HR. You know, we’ve done
all of the things that I think anyone
would do when confronted with that. You know, the challenge
that you have as a large organization
of 8,000 odd people is you can put all the policies
in place that you want. If you don’t shift your culture, if people don’t internalize
the values that you want to have in your workplace, if people continue
to behave badly, it’s not the policies
that stop people. The policies are what
you can use ultimately to say, well you didn’t
live up to this policy and therefore we’re going
to terminate you or we’re going to discipline
you in some manner or – You know it’s –
they’re pieces of paper that say these are our standards, this is
what we want – to create a safe workplace
for people and these are the tools
that you have as somebody who might
be confronted with bad behaviour to use
to say, hmm, well this happened and it
violates the policy, so I’m going to bring
that forward. So, they’re useful in that sense. I think what you
really have to do is create a place where
people can look each other in the eye
and know that if they raise their hand, they’ll have support
for pointing out something that’s
wrong behaviour. You know, it doesn’t
eliminate it. I have no doubt that
there’s someone behaving badly somewhere
on any given day because human beings are messy. And, you know, in real life, real people are working very hard to make things better
and other real people with problems
are working very hard to not do that
and so, you’re constantly trying to
be vigilant, you’re constantly trying to
shift the culture, you’re constantly trying
to make the conversation one that,
for me, has to become normalized.
We have to normalize bad shit happened
over here, I want to point it out and talk
about it and let’s deal with it and not
let things fester or build up or become
secrets or anything else. And in that sense, it’s
like any social group – be it a family or a
group of friends or any other place. Your workplace is a
place where you need to feel safe, you need
to feel like you can surface stuff and that it’s a normal thing to raise a problem
and get it dealt with. And that’s what we try and do.>>In your interview
with Peter Mansbridge regarding Jian Ghomeshi,
you denied that there were any
problematic behaviours in the workplace. However, soon after,
you changed your view on the problem and
decided to investigate. You concluded that
there was indeed inappropriate behaviour
by Ghomeshi and congratulations on taking
action and firing him. What made you want to look deeper into the case
and take action? Furthermore, apart
from firing him, what was the biggest
challenge faced by you in the Ghomeshi case?>>We had actually announced
the Rubin investigation before I did Peter Mansbridge,
so we had surfaced that there were things
that we had not captured in our – what
turned out to be a not thorough enough
HR investigation. So, as people may recall, the Ghomeshi thing started
with Ghomeshi himself coming to CBC and saying,
the Toronto Star’s trying to do a story
about me, it’s my ex-girlfriend,
you know, it’s not true, blah blah blah. And when we looked
at his file and stuff, we didn’t have anything
and then somebody sent us an email – sent an
email to an employee in his area that said,
you know, I have reason to believe some
of this behaviour that he’s being accused
of outside of the CBC may have crossed over
into the workplace and that was what triggered me to say, do an investigation. That happened, to a lesser
degree than we would have liked, which I think the
Fifth Estate surfaced, but at the time that I fired him, I fired him for behaviour that was evidence to us from
outside the CBC and with women who he saw
outside of the CBC. His behaviour inside the
CBC was not any of the stuff for which
he was put on trial. And so, the reference
to the relationship stuff – relationship – was not
people inside the CBC. There was a complaint
apparently in 2010 of a woman who gave
her complaint to a union steward and it never
got carried forward, that was around behaviour – not that behaviour –
but inappropriate behaviour. But most of the behaviour
inside the CBC was in the vein of either bullying or creating a climate
of intimidation. So, it wasn’t the stuff
that came out from the Toronto Star, the nine
women who came forward in the Star. That stuff was all
women from outside. And so, that’s what
I was referring to in the interview. What was the toughest
part of it, for me? I mean, those of you who
remember it at that time, it was a staggering amount
of media attention. He was a very, very big star. I think what was hard
for me was that the whole of the CBC was
deeply upset and embarrassed about it and so many people
at the CBC had nothing to do with it.
Right? They never worked with him,
never saw him. You know, we’re delivering,
you know, news in Inuktitut 70 percent of the
day in the north. Those people had nothing
to do with Jian Ghomeshi, but everybody got
brushed with it and everybody got – felt
deeply, deeply ashamed and embarrassed about it. And the morale, the impact on
morale, the impact on people who were truly mission
driven public broadcasters trying to do a great job
every day, I think that was one of the
hardest things – was to see how badly
they felt about their institution that they’d
been so proud to be associated with,
so it was that sweeping brush that
tainted everybody that was really hard
to see and hard to keep people
motivated and, you know, bring their pride back.>>An article on the
CBC website titled “The CBC right to ask
for $400 million in additional funding,
executive Heather Conway says on Metro Morning” stated CBC was asking
for an additional $400 million for the purpose of making CBC
an advertisement-free network and you were
supportive of this proposal. Why do you believe that
the CBC deserves the $400 million for this campaign and what will be the benefits?>>So, the $400 million ask came about as a result of the
Minister of Heritage putting out a request for
people to offer their thoughts about the
future of Canadian media in a digital world. And she said, everything’s
on the table and so, we said, you know what, we’re the third worst-funded public broadcaster in the world. We are constantly torn
because we have to sell advertising and so,
we have to have commercial kind of content that prevents us from
focusing solely on our public service mandate. And the breakdown of the
$400 million is as follows: $300 million of it,
roughly, is to replace, first of all, the $253 million we
currently earn in advertising, so it’s
just replacement. The next chunk is – you can’t go to a
producer who’s made a comedy for you that’s
a 22-minute show to fit ads in and say, make
me a 30-minute show, but I’m not going to pay you
for the other eight minutes. So, you’ve got to pay
people for those extra eight minutes that are
no longer advertising. And the final chunk
of it was to help us transition to a digital
future by being able to invest in
our OTT platform, our digital distribution,
digital content and all of that. It amounts
to a dollar a month for Canadians, so it’s
12 dollars a year when you break it
down and it would move us from being
the world’s third worst-funded public
broadcaster to the fourth worst.
So, it’s not like it would be a crazy revolution. It would just allow us to continue to offer,
I think, a unique product for Canadians
and one that we need.>>As the former Chief
Business Officer for the Art Gallery of Ontario, you must have a strong
appreciation for the arts. Do you think that the
0.02 percent of Toronto’s 2018 operating budget
being used to fund the arts is justified? What can the City of Toronto
do to promote the arts and create a unique
culture for the city?>>You know, I mean, I think the arts are
deeply important because I don’t think anybody’s going to remember – whether we had a condo
on this or that corner a hundred years from now
is not going to define who we are as a city. Did we create a place
where people felt they could come together
and make beauty and make art and make
things that move us and make music and celebrate
what we care about? So, no, I don’t think
it’s enough and I actually think
finding creative ways to allow artists to
stay in cities is part of what makes a healthy city. You know, I know a lot
of artists are moving to Hamilton right now. Hamilton’s going to
benefit from all those artists moving there. Hamilton is going to
become a hotbed of cultural activity and
creators and people who want to make
music and want to – you know, young creative
people are going to go where they can afford to
live and collaborate together. And that’s a great
loss for a city. And so, I do think
it’s important for Toronto to figure out ways to, you know,
find pockets where we can support artists
and creators to be and live.>>With the growth of social media news outlets and the
Internet as a whole, the subsequent reduced
television and radio consumption, how
is CBC adapting to the changing environment
of broadcasting?>>Okay, so, the very
first thing I want to tell all of you is that
if all you have is an Internet connection,
you can all sign up for CBC TV app and
you can watch Kim’s Convenience and you can watch CBC News. You do it all for free and
if you want to watch it without ads, you
can do it for $4.99. So, any show, all kinds
of stuff that you want from the CBC, tons
of comedy, tons of wonderful stuff.
You can get an OTT service delivered via
all these Apple computers that I see here. So, that’s one of the ways
we’re dealing with it. We certainly know
that people are shifting away from
cable and it’s expensive and when
I look at the landscape and think about what
is our strategy for migrating the CBC to the
digital CBC that will ultimately replace
the linear CBC, I think people are going to privilege their
Internet service, right, that’s going to
be their big spend over their cable
service and in that Internet service,
they’re going to have probably Netflix for
nine or ten dollars a month and then
they’re going to have a few more OTT services.
And so, my goal is to make sure the CBC
is one of those services that they
pick and say, well, you know, I do want a
Canadian service. And then I think people
are going to go maybe I want Amazon Prime, maybe not, maybe I want
a sports OTT or a food one if that’s my thing and they’ll build a little bundle
of OTT services that will meet all their needs. You know, they still won’t
get to 50 bucks by the time you do that. I pay a cable bill
right now that would choke a horse.
My cable bill is like $400 a month.
>>So is mine.>>And it’s ridiculous
and, you know, I have a bunch of channels,
but I don’t have – like I’m not buying
the Sunday Ticket, much as I’d like to because I’m a football fan,
but I don’t – like I’m saying I don’t have
the big buffet. So, you can watch it
on your phone, you can watch it, you know.
So, basically what we’re doing is making
all of our content available everywhere
however people want it. We’ve just launched
internally the CBC Listen app, which
is going to be 40 streaming – you can
get CBC music right now – 40 streaming
services for free. You can get CBC
radio on your phone, as well. But we’re going to
merge them into one because our podcast business has turned into 300 million
downloads in the past year. We’re the number one
podcaster in the country. We’re, in fact, the
number one digital media – Canadian
digital media company in the country. So, our reach, our digital reach at CBC is about 18 million
uniques a month. There are very few companies that even come close to CBC in terms of our digital reach.
The ones that do are Facebook, Amazon, it’s
the who’s who of giant technology companies. The ones that have time
spent are companies like Netflix that have
long-form content that people obviously
engage with for hours at a time.
So our goal – because we have
pretty ubiquitous reach – is to start
increasing our time spent with people, but,
you know, we touch 60 percent of millennials
in this country every month – largely through news.
People consume the CBC News
app quite a bit. So, you know, I think
we have the strategies. Our challenge is money. It costs a fortune to
maintain both, so we have to maintain this
linear system and all these TV stations and
radio stations and transmitters across
the country and create digital platforms.>>Thank you for coming
in Ms. Conway. So, Netflix’s Stranger Things
and HBO’s Game of Thrones, arguably the biggest
recent successes in terms of serialized content, were initially turned
down by many network executives due to their unorthodox plots, premises,
characters and settings. However, this seems to be the very thing that audiences
have responded positively to. Funding criteria for
Canadian content has been criticized,
much like those network executives for favouring
safe, formulaic, but ultimately forgettable content. Ms. Conway, do you see
the CBC having a role in revising these
funding criteria or finding alternative
ways to nurture greater creativity
and cultural value? If so, how do you
envision this happening?>>Yes, of course I do.
I mean, I think it’s very difficult to make a kind of a blanket statement
about content. There are different
kinds of content for different channels, first of all. So, you know,
a Game of Thrones is an HBO channel,
so from the get-go, no commercial breaks.
It’s a paid service and so, people are
paying a premium for that and they want
a premium kind of content for that. Ours is free, as you know.
And so, the expectation of that level of content –
I mean I’ll tell you guys something interesting. Has anybody watched The Crown? It’s a Netflix series about the
Queen and whatnot.>>I watched it.
>>A wonderful series. Ten episodes, $130 million US
for ten episodes. That is about the
same as the budget for the entire CBC
non-news programming for one year. Okay? One series on Netflix. Daytime, primetime,
nighttime, entire year. That is the budget for the CBC. So, again, what we
do is make miracles. Kim’s Convenience
is a very, very high quality show, very funny. Schitt’s Creek is a –
>>Which one? What’s the first one?
>>Kim’s, the one you watched.>>Oh yeah. [Laughter] Schitt’s Creek,
Baroness von Sketch. Does anybody watch Baroness? So, Baroness was just picked up. It’s a for-women
comedy sketch show. It was just picked
up by IFC in the US to replace Portlandia
because they thought this is similar kind of humour and, you know, the baronesses
are all over Facebook, they’re all over social media because it’s sketch and it’s – So, we kind of play,
I think, with lots of high-risk comedy.
Crawford is something we just launched on
our OTT service first before we launched
it on linear and it’s about a guy who is a raccoon whisperer.
>>Sorry I missed it.>>You can catch it on OTT.
When I saw it, I thought, hmm I’m not sure
I get this show and somebody said to me,
it’s not for you. You’re not the audience,
it’s for young people. They will get the show and I said, okay, fine. And, you know, it’s
connecting with people, but it’s not because a
network executive said, I don’t think a raccoon
whisperer belongs on the CBC. We’re open to whatever,
we’re open to good. What we have had
to do is find ways to leverage those
limited dollars we have to get high quality content. Now, I don’t know how
many of you watch Anne, which is the new Anne
of Green Gables that we did with Netflix. It is the number four
most binged show for Netflix in the world. In the world. So, don’t tell me
I make shit content. That is a great piece of
content that Netflix didn’t have that much
to do with creatively, right, but they did provide a huge amount of
the funding and in exchange for that
funding, they got worldwide rights.
And what I got was Canadian rights.
And that’s okay because that’s all I need. I’m the public broadcaster. I don’t have an
international channel. I’m not paid by the Swiss. All I need to do is give
Canadians great content and so, if I want
to attract great Canadian creators –
and Anne was made by a woman who’s a
Canadian who worked on Breaking Bad for eight seasons. So, she wanted to make something that was a more challenging, more dramatic, deeper,
more complex, darker version of a book
that had touched her as a child and she created
something really beautiful. If you haven’t watched it,
don’t think it’s your mother’s Green Gables. It’s not, it’s a really
powerful show. You know, you can find ways to make great stuff if
you can find the money. Money matters.
So again, the fact that we’re doing
with $130 million US what somebody else
is doing for one show and going, aren’t we great? I’d say, yeah, you’re great.
Want to program an entire network for
an entire year with that? We’ll see how great you are.>>Ms. Conway, in recent
years, we have seen the online streaming
of television programs grow astronomically.
Companies such as Netflix have gone from
small startups to major players in the television industry. In response to this,
CBC TV started streaming its 14 regular linear television channels for free and launched a paid over-the-top TV subscription service
for $4.99 per month which included a
premium service that bundled on-demand
episodes without advertisements and CBC
News network in 2017. Is there a panic within the cable TV industry to get
on this new wave before it’s too late
and is there a feeling amongst industry
professionals that streaming will lead to the end of the cable TV industry?>>I don’t know if
there’s a panic. I mean, this is a little
bit of a follow-on to a question one of
your colleagues asked that was really about,
you know, how are we adapting to the digital age. I think Ashley, it was your question. I think what you’re
seeing is a decline – steady, not dramatic
decline – in people having cable subscriptions. So, it’s probably gone
down about 15 percent in the last ten years.
So, now I think it’s around 73 percent of Canadian households have,
say a multi-channel service – cable type
service – that they pay a cable or a Fibe
type of service for. Ten percent of that decline’s
happened in the last four years. So, the pace is accelerating. My guess is that a lot
of you who have gone through either using
your parents’ service, maybe your parents’
Netflix subscription, your tolerance for paying a huge amount of money
for your content is fairly low. The idea that you’re not watching television
content is false because a lot of what
you consume is television whether it’s –
you watch it on your laptop or your
phone, but it’s content generally that was
produced for television. If it’s short form
YouTube content, that’s a different beast,
but a lot of long form was originally produced for television in some
form or another. And I think what’s
going to happen is erosion, erosion, erosion, cliff. And so, the cable industry
will start to make most of its money from its
broadband services that it currently delivers
those cable services over and they’re just going to start upping your data charges. It’s kind of a heads, we win, tails, you lose situation because ultimately, how are you
going to get your content? It’s got to come over either a wireless or a data – it’s an ISP. That’s how you’re going to get it. So, they’re going to get
you one way or another.>>Prior to joining CBC,
you were the Chief Business Officer at the
Art Gallery of Ontario, which under your tenure,
the gallery saw its attendance increase
by 20 percent and achieved its highest
membership levels. Considering it is quite evident that you have contributed
to the Art Gallery of Ontario’s success, what actions and/or
revisions do you believe CBC must take in order
to improve its business model to survive
and possibly thrive?>>Well, I think a lot of the things that we did at the
gallery were about segmenting the audience
and figuring out how to invite people
who had never been to the gallery, into
the gallery before. One of the first items
being the neighbourhood that the gallery sits in
in Toronto. The gallery had been advertising
in things like The New Yorker. I don’t think anyone in
New York needs to worry about whether they
got a gallery to go to in Toronto and they
were spending a lot of money on that kind of thing. And so, just focusing
our efforts on our local audience and
figuring out the right invitation was a big part of generating interest
and engagement. Making it less intimidating,
finding ways to talk to people about art that was fresh and new, I think,
was part of that. When I look at
the CBC, it’s through – you know, I look at every
decision I make today at the CBC and say, is this advancing the digital
CBC that will replace the linear CBC?
Because if I don’t make the CBC into a digital media company, I will not be relevant. If I don’t have the CBC
reflect and represent what Canada is today,
we will not have a relevant CBC. It’s about audience,
making it audience-driven. It’s about making it digital.
It’s about the fight for content and it’s really a fight
for relevance. If Canadians don’t feel they need it, they won’t
support paying for it. So, it’s all of those
things and I think we’ve made incredible
progress in the last four years since I’ve been there. Really transforming
it into a very digital organization, but
we have lots more to do.>>How did you develop a
multitude of skills and what is your advice to graduating students who are struggling to find a decent job?>>You know, when I studied
economics as my undergraduate degree
and then I did a parliamentary internship
and then I did a master’s degree in industrial relations in the UK
at a Marxist school. Because I wanted to do –
I wanted to study Marxist economics
and there weren’t many places in Canada
where you could do that. And when I came back,
really my only career strategy was
to recognize that I was at the bottom
of the biggest cohort in history, called the Baby Boom. And they were all here
and I was about sort of seven to ten years behind them. That’s not enough space
to know that they’re going to die or retire and so I thought –
>>And she looks at me! I’m hanging in here.
>>So, I knew if I went into any large institution,
I would have to fight my way through the
biggest cohort in history. And I thought, well,
that’s not a good plan because how are you
going to distinguish yourself when you’re
always going to have that sort of seven
years less experience? And so, I didn’t even apply
to any organization that had more than 100 employees. I just eliminated that
from my job search. And I graduated into a recession, so, you know, I wasn’t
employed right away. I took contract work. I ran around and asked
different people for bits and bobs here and there and I kind of cobbled
together a bunch of side gigs, as people do and
so, it wasn’t that different. What I was willing to do and what you find in small
organizations is you become a jack of all trades. You have to do everything because there aren’t
enough people to do – we’re the HR department,
we’re the this department, we’re the that department. Everybody is everything. So, if you want to gain a lot of skills fairly early,
I think going to small businesses,
you get much more stuff to do at an earlier age. And then once you’ve
amassed a certain amount of that, you can go
into a large organization at a higher level and
that’s what I did. I went into TD Bank
when I was in my late 20s and I was
hired as an AVP. And I think if I’d
started at TD Bank as a teller or a junior
management trainee of some kind, I don’t
think I’d have risen to that position for years. But because I came from
the outside and had a skill set already from working
in small businesses, I think I was able to do that. So, it was a good strategy for me to get a lot of different
experiences and then leverage that when I wanted to. The other place that people
don’t think about that are all looking for
young, smart people and where you can
actually get a lot of good experience is government. There are really interesting
challenges and jobs in government.
Governments are trying to solve the hardest problems
facing society today. They’re trying to solve poverty, they’re trying to solve
medical care, they’re trying to solve all these different things and
they cannot recruit young people, so, you
can actually get to work on really interesting stuff. You probably don’t want
to stay there your whole life, but you
actually can get really good experience,
good references. You’ll meet people who
have networks, you know. And sometimes, the work
is really interesting. And in politics, as well,
if you’re interested in making change and you want to work
in politics, you get to see things from way up here. I was one of the people
who helped create the GST. That happens once
in a hundred years that you reform the
tax system at that dramatic a level and it was
really, really interesting.>>So, a few weeks ago,
I was watching David Letterman’s new show, My Next Guest Needs
No Introduction, and he had President Obama
on for the first one and they were talking about
in the 2016 election and I don’t remember what Obama said specifically, but to paraphrase, he said
something along the lines of, you know,
if you get your information from
Fox News, you are living on a different planet. And I think what we saw
in 2016 in the US was that all these news
channels were sort of supporting their own
partisan opinions and depending on which
channel you tune into at night, your opinions
on American politics were incredibly different. And we’re at a stage now
where, you know, the political divide between
the Democrats and the Republicans has never
been further apart. So, as the head of the CBC’s news and the
other aspects of the broadcast committee,
but how do you make sure that the news
that you guys are delivering isn’t partisan to any specific party here in Canada?>>I’m so glad you
asked this question. I actually have two
answers for you. One is around what
is our current approach to ensuring that we have balanced coverage and
non-biased coverage. We actually have things, like our election coverage is audited independently to
show whether we privileged one group
over another and all of that, so, we
have multiple studies that show – despite
everybody claiming you’re biased towards them, no, you’re biased
towards them – we’re not biased.
And it’s an independent firm that does it, it’s not us.
They look at every piece of content that
we do and they come to a conclusion
about whether we were leaning or
biased in any way. The secondary piece
of your question is really about algorithms. And all of you are subject to this. As you look at your
feeds all day long, you are feeding an algorithm. And the algorithm is
designed to sell advertising and to keep you coming back. Because your time spent
is what is sellable. So, Facebook wants you
to keep coming back and spending time on
Facebook because Facebook is not a media
company, it’s an advertising company and all they really
want is you and an advertiser put together
in a space where they know you’re going
to show up regularly. The problem that creates is
the one you identified. You end up in an
echo chamber because everything you
click on, they give you more of, right, so
every time you click on a right-wing article, you send a message to Facebook that says, I like
right-wing articles and you get more
of them in your feed. That’s how it works.
If you only like this type of thing and I like
left-wing articles, you get more of those. What we are going to do,
as the public broadcaster, and we’ve made this
decision, is to run our OTT data management
platform to say, we will not do that.
And we’re going to be transparent with Canadians
about it and say, if you think you can
come to CBC and only click on these
kind of news stories because these are
the kind you like, we’re going to constantly
be reminding you there’s another
side to this story and we’re going to
feed you that, whether you want it or
not and we’re going to tell you the reason we’re doing that is because we believe
that people should hear both sides of things. So, as a public broadcaster,
we can take that stance and say, I’m not here to
sell advertising of your time and your –
what I’m here for is to meet my mandate,
which is to inform, enlighten and entertain. So, it is a huge public
service that we’re probably not going
to get credit for, but it’s a really, really,
really important thing. And it’s really important
for all of you to go and find things from the other point of view
so that your feeds don’t simply become
biased echo chambers where you only hear
what you want to hear. You’ve got to have
a questioning mind, an open mind, a critical mind to be an engaged citizen.>>Okay, on behalf of Ryerson,
I want to thank you, Heather. It’s been spectacular.
>>Thank you. [Applause]

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