Tom Van Amburg, TV Executive and Leader of KABC-TV Los Angeles, Dies at 83

Tom Van Amburg, a broadcast TV executive known for his keen eye for talent and skill at developing local programming during his tenure as the leader of KABC-TV Los Angeles and other ABC O&O stations, died June 24 at his home in Los Angeles. He was 83.

Van Amburg was the father of Zack Van Amburg, co-head of worldwide video for Apple, and entertainment marketing executive Chris Van Amburg.

Tom Van Amburg took the helm of KABC-TV in 1981 and was a key player in maintaining the station’s dominance as Los Angeles’ most-watched local news outlet. He had the foresight to give Regis Philbin a local daytime talk show, “A.M. Los Angeles with Regis Philbin,” which evolved into the nationally syndicated powerhouse that endures today as “Live with Kelly and Mark.” He was a consistent innovator in news programming, and he championed the careers of long-running L.A. anchors including Jerry Dunphy, Christine Lund, Paul Moyers and Chuck Henry.

Van Amburg had an on-air presence himself. He delivered weekly editorials for KABC and hosted the occasional special such as “Coliseum Coliseum,” which aired in 1984 when the Summer Olympics were held in L.A. He also hosted KABC’s “Eyewitness Anonymous” feature that profiled suspected local criminals in the hopes of generating tips from viewers to help police. Van Amburg ended each segment with his signature catchphrase: “Turn ’em in!”

Born in Fresno, Calif, Van Amburg grew up in Northern California. He got his start in radio and moved with his young family to Los Angeles in 1974. In addition to running KABC-TV Los Angeles, Van Amburg worked for ABC O&O stations in New York, Chicago and San Francisco. His brother, Fred Van Amburg, was a staple of San Francisco’s KGO-TV in the 1970s and ’80s as a weathercaster known on air simply as Van Amburg.

After five years at KABC-TV, Tom Van Amburg went across the street to CBS-owned KCBS-TV Los Angeles. He later became CEO of his own Vanamedia banner that included Tri-Crown Productions as a subsidiary.

In addition to sons Zack and Chris, Van Amburg is survived by his wife of more than 50 years, Mary Van Amburg; a daughter, Arden; and six grandchildren.

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