Heather Conway has been formally appointed as the CBC's next executive vice-president of English-language services, a position that puts her in charge of media products in what she calls "the most important cultural institution in the country."

'You have to engage people. You have to be meaningful, and that's our challenge.' - Heather Conway, CBC's new executive vice-president of English-language

"I have butterflies; I think they're good butterflies," Conway told CBC's Suhana Meharchand. "I'm very, very excited to be here. I'm just thrilled.

"I think the CBC is the most important cultural institution in the country."

Conway said Canadians come to the CBC for a national perspective on world and local events, and that she wakes up regularly listening to CBC Radio's Metro Morning.

"It's the place where Canadians come to tell Canadian stories. It's where the Canadian point of view around the news and how we look at the world all happens," she said.

Conway joins the public broadcaster's senior executive team after a tenure at the Art Gallery of Ontario, where she was chief business officer overseeing human resources, digital services, marketing, and corporate and public affairs, among other operations.

As head of CBC/Radio-Canada’s English-language services, she will be in charge of television, radio and online properties, including:

  • CBC Radio One.
  • CBC Radio 2.
  • CBC Television.
  • CBC News Network.
  • CBC.ca.
  • Documentary and digital operations.

Amid budget cuts at the public broadcaster, Conway said ensuring the content comes first will be particularly important for managing on-air and digital products.

"When you're in a public-sector organization and in particular a cultural one, employees and management alike are mission-driven, right? You're not here for the money; you're here because you care about public broadcasting and you believe in it, and I believe in that," she said.

On audience engagement, Conway said viewers, listeners and readers are attracted to content that's meaningful to them.

"You have to engage people. You have to be meaningful, and that's our challenge," she said. "And I actually think the CBC does a pretty good job of that. And you've got to keep doing that and take it to a new level."

Wealth of experience

Under Conway's tenure at the art gallery, it achieved its highest membership levels and saw attendance rise by 20 per cent.

Conway has also held top executive and consulting positions in the private sector, working with TD Bank Financial Group, Hill & Knowlton and The Neville Group.

She spent six years as executive vice-president at Alliance Atlantis, responsible for strategic marketing, publicity and on-air creative plans for 13 Canadian cable specialty channels.

Conway is currently a member of the boards of directors of IGM Financial and American Express Canada. In 2001, she was named as one of Canada's Top 40 Under 40.

In a memo explaining why Conway got the job, CBC's president and CEO Hubert Lacroix said he was looking for a leader with a particular set of attributes.

"A person with a business focus to decision-making, and a reputation of nurturing and developing teams," he wrote. "A person who is as comfortable in a corporate boardroom as she is on the newsroom floor. And a person who has delivered results in a wide variety of circumstances."

Conway, who joins the CBC in December, replaces Kirstine Stewart, who left in April to become the head of Twitter Canada.