Budget 2024

Tax and spend fiscal plan will inhibit growth

In light of the COVID-19 emergency, we’ve temporarily suspended our regularly scheduled series of conversations with Canadian CEOs. But we’re not going away. Instead, we’re going to pivot to the health emergency itself. We’re going to explore the impact on companies and workers across the country. And we’re going to find out how business leaders are responding to crisis.

Doug Murphy, President & CEO of Corus Entertainment discusses the importance of providing trustworthy news to Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic and he explains why Corus launched #CanadaTogether to share uplifting stories during this difficult time.

Additional Reading

Transcript

Goldy Hyder:
Welcome to Speaking of Business,. I’m Goldy Hyder of the Business Council of Canada. In this special series, we are exploring how business leaders are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’re like me, you’ve been watching and reading a lot of news over the past few weeks to keep up on the health crisis in Canada. While many of us are practicing physical distancing, journalists are in the field and in the news room delivering much needed information. So how are they keeping safe and healthy while performing this essential service?

Goldy Hyder:
Doug Murphy is President and CEO of Corus Entertainment. He oversees dozens of television channels including Global TV as well as a network of radio stations and digital properties. Welcome to the podcast, Doug.

Doug Murphy:
Thank you, Goldy. It’s nice to join you.

Goldy Hyder:
Well, let’s jump right in. I know how busy you are. Perhaps more than ever though, Canadians are really relying on news and the trustworthiness of that news. You have to believe that, in this time, you have this equal responsibility to keep your reporters and your production crews and others, as safe as possible. How much of the health guidelines is impacting your ability to deliver the news?

Doug Murphy:
Well, first of all, I’m happy to join you. I think it’s wonderful what the Business Council has been doing in terms of inviting leaders to discuss their company’s experiences with the COVID crisis; it’s certainly a meaningful and important topic. We at Corus Entertainment, one of our most important, in fact our most important obligation, is to provide news to Canadians. In an era of fake news, I’ve heard the COVID-19 pandemic called the first ever social media pandemic. There is a lot of news out there which is not news.

Doug Murphy:
At Global News, we employ more than a thousand people across the country. We produce news for television, for radio, for digital online. It’s local, it’s regional, it’s national and there’s an army of people that are so thoroughly committed to bringing Canadians the story that’s important for them. And Canadians now, you won’t be surprised to know this Goldy, that the ratings on newscasts, not just Global, but CTV and CBC are up 50% to 70%. We’re seeing that on our AM news radio stations on our globalnews.ca and on our national broadcast. We’ve had to adapt a bunch of different approaches.

Doug Murphy:
No longer do you see scrums of reporters trying to get in front of people. In fact, right now when the Prime Minister does his daily briefing at 11:15, there’s one camera and we pool the video we shoot amongst all the broadcasters. That’s but one example. The team has been working very hard to change the workflows and we’ve been successful at so doing.

Goldy Hyder:
Wow, that’s amazing. The statistics that you just shared in terms of the viewership, but it confirms what we were saying, right? Canadians are thirsty for reliable information and it’s great that you’re able to provide it to them. Now in doing so, I understand that in your Toronto operations, you actually had to deal with two cases of COVID-19 back in mid-March. How did that impact that particular location and any actions you took thereafter?

Doug Murphy:
We moved pretty quickly to establish a work-from-home protocol, both with our news operations and across the whole company. In fact, of our 3,500 employees, more than 75% are now working from home. The situation at our news operation that’s up in Don Mills, here in Toronto, was two of our very notable reporters came down with the COVID virus. Our team is on the front line, not in the way that the heroic medical workers are, but they are covering news and putting themselves in harm’s way. It was, not surprisingly, quite a shock to our team, but we have been very thorough and diligent in terms of our communications here at Corus. We’re in the communications business, so it shouldn’t surprise anybody. We worked very closely with the team in the Don Mills operation to ensure that they were safe, that we will take care of them.

Doug Murphy:
I think one of the things we did as a company was we put our employees first. When all this happened, our primary obligation was the safety of our team. We get countless notes and emails and calls from them saying what a remarkable effort the company has made to take care of them. When this situation at Don Mills arose, we took immediate action and put everybody at ease that they would be safe and they are. I’m very happy to report that both of those reporters are 100% recovered and we have no other situation as of COVID in the company.

Goldy Hyder:
Well that’s great news. Now Doug, I’m speaking with you shortly after Canada surpassed 1,000 deaths due to COVID-19 and it’s obviously very easy to get discouraged with news like that. You’ve launched a new initiative called Canada Together to try and also get out some positive messages during this time. What is it that you’re doing specifically?

Doug Murphy:
We are proud of our news operations, although you’re right, there are times when you don’t want to look at the news because it’s just getting heavy. Our team came together with a great initiative. It’s called #CanadaTogether. It’s a nationwide initiative to help inspire, educate, and engage Canadians as we band together during this unprecedented time. It’s about shining a light on the incredible contributions and acts of kindness that businesses and individuals and frontline workers are making as we all cope with either the frontline medical situations or self isolation and social distancing. At its core, the work we do at Corus is about community and we build communities of listeners and viewers with every network and show that people love and with every on-air personality who gains meaningful following. We strengthen our communities by sharing information about the people and the events important to our cities, provinces in the country.

Doug Murphy:
This #CanadaTogether has a number of different pillars: celebrate together, learn together, educate together. These are all with content that links to different features. For example, we have a whole fundraising campaign as part of the celebrate together initiative. There’s lots of information on what to do at home. Home together is another pillar. Cooking together. We’re all doing more cooking at home than maybe we’ve done in the past. We have a number of lead sponsors and we just launched it. I think the funnest thing we’re doing is every Sunday at noon we encourage Canadians to get out in their front door step and sing O Canada. Throughout the week, we invite Canadians to submit their versions of O’Canada on hello@corusent.com. The most recent one, last Sunday, was by the Three Tenors. I got to tell you a Goldy, it brings it tear to your eye when you look at those three talented singers all self-isolated singing the national anthem, it is something else.

Goldy Hyder:
Yeah, that sounds really special. I think we’re seeing that not just here in Canada, but around the world. It’s these little things, isn’t it Doug, that help you get through these challenging times.

Doug Murphy:
It is. It’s also entertainment. We’re also a big entertainment company. We’re seeing all kinds of people watching HGTV and the Property Brothers or the Food Network or YTV. We’re not confused about when people are home, they’re watching a lot more television and listening to a lot more radio. It’s our job to help bring entertainment and a smile to everybody’s face in addition to the factual news. That’s so important.

Goldy Hyder:
Well you’re doing a great job at it. As we conclude, I thought I would ask you a question that I want to explore with the all of our leaders and that is what are you learning about yourself in this unprecedented situation that we find ourselves in? Particularly, how has it impacted you as a leader?

Doug Murphy:
I think two things. I’ve been watching and reading a lot about Winston Churchill recently.

Goldy Hyder:
I just watched The Darkest Hour.

Doug Murphy:
Yeah, as did I. I re-watched the Gathering Storm and I think there’s a certain battlefield management style you have to take and times like this.

Goldy Hyder:
Yeah, we are at war aren’t we?

Doug Murphy:
Yeah. That’s about being decisive, but it’s about protecting your flank and making sure your team’s fine. I think there are times, as leaders, that we can delegate and let the teams run with it and we’re doing a lot of that. In other circumstances, I’m being more directive or making sure that we’re being quick to the mark on execution. The other thing I would just say is communication. I’ve always been a big fan of communication but you cannot over communicate enough. We can’t get our teams together in big groups anymore.

Doug Murphy:
I shot a video last week cause we did our second quarter earnings release, so I did a three and a half minute video, which we sent around the team. We do Skype town halls with the revenue team, for example. We do an all-call, which is a Corus audio call where questions are sent in advance, and I’m available to anybody anytime if they want to talk or email. I think the other thing I’ve learned is just to continue to be communicative and to listen a lot because people are scared and they’re getting frustrated and in some cases, they’re very lonely. We have younger people that work in our business that are very social and if you’re in your late 20’s and have been locked into your studio apartment for three weeks, that’s very, very difficult. I think just being available and being vulnerable as a leader is powerful at times like this.

Goldy Hyder:
What a great place to end. Thanks for being available. Thanks for being vulnerable. Thanks so much for all that you’re doing, we really appreciate it.

Doug Murphy:
Happy to do it, any time, Goldy. Thank you for doing what you’re doing too.

Goldy Hyder:
Doug Murphy is President and CEO of Corus Entertainment. If you’ve been enjoying our special podcast series, why not share it with a friend? You can hear all of our conversations wherever you get your podcasts or simply go to our website, SpeakingOfBiz.ca. That’s biz with a zed. Until next time, I’m Goldy Hyder. Thanks for joining us.