CBC executive resigns over bullying and harassment
By: Kevin Donovan
Toronto Star, Investigations
A top CBC official who called for a more respectful workplace has apologized for her own behaviour to one of her senior staff.
Heather Conway, executive vice-president of English Services for the public broadcaster, was recently accused of harassing Neil McEneaney, sources told the Star. Until he resigned Tuesday, McEneaney was in charge of negotiating key CBC business deals including broadcast rights for the Olympics.
(Conway) apologized and we carried on,” McEneaney told the Star on Tuesday. ‘The Crown corporation abruptly announced to staff Tuesday the resignation of McEneaney, the CBC’s chief business officer, English Services. He is taking up a position as president of a firm that tracks audience numbers for television and radio programs.
In the wake of McEneaney’s informal complaint, CBC has hired an outside firm to conduct a review of the conduct of senior managers including Conway.
“We are always looking to improve wherever we can and have retained a third-party firm to conduct an environmental scan of our workplace that will involve conversations with some senior managers,” according to CBC spokesman Chuck Thompson.
This incident at the CBC follows CBC’s decision to tackle the issue of workplace harassment and bullying raised by the Rubin report into the conduct of former Q host, Jian Ghomeshi. Employment lawyer Janice Rubin found that senior management ignored warning signs and “condoned” harassing behaviour by Ghomeshi towards other CBC employees.
After the scathing Ghomeshi report was released in April, Conway and CBC president Hubert Lacroix apologized to employees and the public. Conway gave an interview to a CBC reporter and said “I’m confident we can and will do better.” Conway also said she is concerned that “there was a persistent pattern of behaviour that wasn’t dealt with, because that is a series of missed opportunities, and over a period of years.”
In October, CBC launched a “bullying and harassment helpline” to support employees, and also encouraged employees to make complaints about untoward behaviour.
McEneaney took issue with Conway’s behaviour in a meeting over the last two months. The Star was unable to get people at the meeting to describe what happened but sources familiar with it said Conway’s behaviour was “upsetting.” McEneaney made an informal complaint to CBC president Lacroix, sources told the Star.
CBC spokesman Thompson would say only that there was “an exchange at a meeting and apologies were made.” Thompson said there was no “formal” complaint. The Star was in the midst of asking more questions about the incident when McEneaney’s resignation was announced. Other CBC brass at the meeting include Jennifer McGuire, CBC’s editor-in-chief of news, and Sally Carlo, general manager of programming at CBC television. Neither responded to interview requests.
Thompson said in an email statement to the Star the CBC has “learned” from the situation and the Crown corporation remains “committed to a respectful working environment.”
Over his 15 years at the CBC, McEneaney was “instrumental in the successful conclusions of many of our most important business deals,” according to a statement released by the CBC to employees Tuesday. “It goes without saying that he will be missed by his senior management colleagues and the teams that he has led.”
Prior to running business deals, McEneaney was acting executive vice-president of English Services, the job now occupied by Conway.
McEneaney starts in December as president and CEO of Numeris, a firm that tracks audience numbers for radio and television, putting him in an interesting position as his new task will give him an in-depth viewpoint on who is watching – and not watching – CBC and other networks. In an email to the Star he said he took the job at Numeris because it offered an exciting opportunity to be “a part of a company that is an important leader in the industry.”
In a parting note to CBC employees, McEneaney said “thank you to everyone I’ve had the pleasure of working with.”
Kevin Donovan can be reached at (416) 312-3503 or kdonovan @thestor.ca