Harold Greenberg (1930-1995)

Harold Greenburg

Year Born: 1930

Year Died: 1995

Year of Induction: 2008

Member of CAB Hall of Fame

Greenberg, Harold (1930-1995)

Harold Greenberg was born on January 11th 1930 in Montreal, and w as educated at Devonshire Elementary School and Baron Byng High School. He left the latter after Grade 8 to work in his uncle’s camera store, his first step along the road to a distinguished career in the broadcasting and film industries.

In 1961, Harold Greenberg and his brothers Harvey and Sidney founded Angreen Photo, a retail photography business that had a licence to handle the photo finishing concession in Miracle Mart stores. In 1963 the company itself became involved in photo finishing, by acquiring Bellevue Photo Labs in Montreal, later expanding to Toronto and Calgary. In 1967, the Greenberg brothers acquired exclusive rights to sell photo products on Montreal’s Expo ’67 site, plus the rights to distribute souvenir slides that were sold world-wide. This gave them the strong financial backing they needed for their future plans.

In 1968, the company first dipped its corporate feet into film production with the acquisition of Pathé-Humphries film labs, which owned film labs and a recording studio in Toronto, and was later merged with Bellevue to become Bellevue Pathé. They followed that in 1969 by acquiring a film production centre in Montreal, Associated Screen News Industries. The company went public in 1971 as Astral Communications Ltd., and amalgamated with Bellevue Pathé in 1973 to become Astral Bellevue Pathé. In 1990, the company’s name changed to Astral Inc., and to Astral Communications Inc. in 1992, on its way to becoming the leading broadcasting firm Astral Media. In the process, Harold embarked upon a very successful career that also contributed a great deal to the strength and development of private broadcasting in Canada.

From photo development, Harold Greenberg first led the company to expand into film production, before going into distribution and videocassette duplication. He was a proud champion of Canadian actors and producers, and was Executive Producer of several notable Canadian films, including The Neptune Factor (1973), Breaking Point (1976), In Praise of Older Women (1978), and Porkys (1982). Astral was also responsible for the widely acclaimed film The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1974).

Harold’s productions for television included the mini-series A Man Called Intrepid (1979), and Mary and Joseph: A Story of Faith (1979), and he was a constant champion for the cause of getting more exposure for Canadian productions on television.

Then, in 1982, Astral entered the other side of the world of broadcasting, when the firm bought two specialty cable channels, First Choice and Premier Choix. It was a condition of Astral getting approval for these acquisitions that they would get out of the production business. But Harold would continue to make important contributions to the growth and development of the Canadian production industry in Canada. In 1986, under his guidance, Astral launched the FUND (Foundation to Underwrite New Drama for pay-television). By early 2016,the Fund, renamed the Harold Greenberg Fund in his honour, had collectively invested more than $85 million to support the production of Canadian programming.

In the following years, Astral would continue to strengthen its position in television, launching such specialty services as Family Channel, Canal Famille (now VRAK.TV), and Canal D. It was later bought by BellMedia.

His work was recognized with numerous awards and honours. Harold Greenberg was an Officer of the Order of Canada. He was also made a Chevalier of France’s Légion d’honneur, was made a Knight of the Ordre National du Québec, received the Eleanor Roosevelt Humanities Award, and received an International Achievement Award from the Montreal World Film Festival, among many other recognitions of his unique contributions to the industry.

In 1995, Harold stepped down as President of Astral Media Inc., to be replaced by his brother Ian. Harold died only six months later. In November 2008, Harold was inducted into the CAB Hall of Fame.

Harold Greenberg once said of himself: “I’m a businessman, an entrepreneur. I sell things. I invest.” While that statement is certainly true, it does not begin to adequately describe the enormous contribution that he made to Canadian broadcasting and to Canada’s shared culture.

Written by Pip Wedge – November, 2008