Ghostwriter – Author – Journalist

Arnold Amber was CBC TV’s behind-the-scenes mastermind

By on September 11, 2017 in Articles with 0 Comments


Most viewers never knew his name, but Arnold Amber, who died in Toronto on Labour Day at the age of 77, was the brains behind TV programs that millions of Canadians watched. For a decade and a half, he was the man in charge of special news broadcasts at the CBC, covering elections, leadership conventions, the first Quebec referendum and the Meech Lake crisis. He was also a passionate union leader, representing fellow journalists at the CBC.

“Arnold’s great skill was planning a news special. He also had an encyclopedic knowledge of Canadian politics,” said Peter Mansbridge, who worked as the anchor on many of the news specials Mr. Amber produced.

The 1980s and early 90s were the heyday of news specials on CBC Television. Mr. Amber’s job during this period was to plan coverage of the major events, and then co-ordinate the broadcasts. It was a high-pressure job, in particular for a man who was a Type 1 diabetic all his life.

Mr. Amber was also in charge of news specials on a number of international crises, including the Vietnamese boat people and the civil war in Lebanon. Along with specials that were planned in advance, he oversaw breaking news stories.

“News specials would break into regular programming quite often, and that doesn’t happen today,” said Tony Burman, the former head of CBC News, who worked with Mr. Amber for 20 years. “Arnold had a 360-degree understanding of what was going on. He was a dedicated journalist and never wavered from his high principles.”

There were four federal elections on Mr. Amber’s watch, counting one in June, 1979, along with seven federal leadership conventions. One of the events he covered was the massively popular inaugural papal visit of John Paul II, in September, 1984.

“I remember we were on the air for 14 hours straight during the papal tour,” said Mr. Mansbridge, who first worked with Mr. Amber as a reporter. The two men produced a documentary on Hong Kong for the program Newsmagazine in the mid-1970s.

Mr. Amber won three Gemini Awards, including one in 1992 for the CBC’s special coverage of the Oka Crisis. He was also a pitcher on the CBC News baseball team. Always on the lookout for recruits, he once asked a candidate in a job interview whether she played baseball.

Arnold Amber was born in Montreal on Oct. 29, 1939, to Joseph and Bella (née Goldberg) Amber. His father operated the National Poultry and Egg company, a wholesale business. His mother worked as a bookkeeper. Young Arnold went to a Jewish parochial school and when he was a young teenager the family moved to California because of his father’s health problems.

Mr. Amber went to North Hollywood high school and then returned to Canada to earn a degree in political science at the University of Ottawa. He worked for the CBC in Ottawa for a short time, then went to Queen’s University for a master’s degree in International Relations.

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About the Author

About the Author:

Fred has had a full career as a CBC TV host and reporter. He has written countless articles for many renowned publications such as The Economist, The Globe and Mail, BusinessWeek and many more, as well as more than 2000 obituaries. He is also a successfully published author and ghostwriter. His current projects include writing and co-authoring books, as well as lending his talents as a speaker and interviewer for webcasts.

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