Phyllis Yaffe (1949-)

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Year Born: 
Year of Induction: 

Member of CAB Hall of Fame

Yaffe, Phyllis (1949- )

Phyllis Yaffe was born in Winnipeg in 1949.   By 1969, she was working as a  librarian in the Winnipeg Public Library, and, in addition to earning a B.A. at the University of Manitoba,  her enthusiasm for the world of books culminated in a Bachelor of Library Science degree from the University of Alberta in 1972, and a master’s degree of Library Science from the University of Toronto in 1976. She was librarian at Seneca College in Toronto from 1973 to 1976, and Executive Director of the Canadian Children’s Book Centre from 1976 to 1980. 

In 1980 she was appointed executive director for the Association of Canadian Publishers, and in 1985 she became Vice-President of Marketing for the children’s magazine, Owl, a position she held until 1993.


While at Owl, Phyllis was approached in 1986 by Harold Greenberg to chair the Foundation to Underwrite New Drama for Pay Television (later to be renamed the Harold Greenberg Fund). In this capacity, she was responsible for overseeing the process that resulted in the creation of scripts and script concepts for new Canadian feature-length dramas and made-for-pay-TV television programming. In 1991 she added to her responsibilities the chairmanship of the Board of Trustees of the Ontario Science Centre, a position she held until 1997.


In 1993, Alliance was planning to apply for a licence for a movie and drama specialty channel, and it was Phyllis Yaffe they approached to head up the licence application.   The application was successful, and when Showcase Television began operations in 1994, Phyllis was its President and CEO.  She was later a key figure in Alliance’s successful application for the History Television licence in 1996, and in the same year she became President and CEO of Alliance Broadcasting.  


In 2001, she was appointed to the newly created position of Chief Executive Officer of Alliance Atlantis Broadcasting and in 2005 she was appointed Chief Executive Officer of Alliance Atlantis Communications. In this latter capacity, she was responsible for overseeing the company’s worldwide operations, including the specialty channels, the international television distribution business, and the CSI franchise. She is credited with having been responsible for bringing such personalities as Mike Holmes, Christine Cushing and the Trailer Park Boys to Canadian television.


When CanWest Global acquired Alliance Atlantis in 2007, Phyllis was retained as a consultant. She later became Chair of the Board of Directors of Cineplex Entertainment, a Director on the Boards of Torstar Corporation, Astral Media Inc. and Lionsgate. 


Phyllis received the 1999 Award for Woman of the Year from Canadian Women in Communications and the 2000 Lifetime Achievement Award from Women In Film & Television.  In 2006 she was named as one of Canada’s 100 Most Powerful Women by the Women’s Executive Network.


She has sat on the World Wildlife Fund Board and the United Way of Greater Toronto’s 2007 Campaign Cabinet, and became Chair of the Board of Governors of Ryerson University in December 2010.


In 2007, Phyllis Yaffe was inducted into the CAB Hall of Fame.


Written by Pip Wedge - October, 2007

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