Ralph Baruch, the founder and former chairman (1983-1987) and CEO (1971-1983) of Viacom International and a driving force in the cable industry for decades, died on March 3. He was 92.
Baruch was born in Frankfurt, Germany in 1923 and in 1933 was forced to flee the Nazi regime for Paris. In 1940, his family fled Paris in a three-month journey where the young Baruch carried his grandmother over the Pyrenees mountains, arriving in the United States later that year.
Baruch began his television career in 1950 at the DuMont Television Network, joining CBS in 1954 and eventually becoming CBS Group president. When CBS decided to spin off Viacom in 1971, Baruch played an integral role, later becoming CEO. During his watch Viacom acquired cable systems, launched cable networks Showtime and The Cable Health Network (now Lifetime) and acquired MTV, Nickelodeon, The Movie Channel and VH-1. He stepped down as CEO in 1983 after Sumner Redstone bought the company and left as chairman 1987.
"Ralph Baruch was a true pioneer and a giant in the media industry" Viacom said in a statement. "We are privileged and honored to carry on his legacy."
Baruch published his autobiography -- "Television Tightrope - How I Escaped Hitler, Survived CBS and Fathered Viacom" – in April 2007. He also wrote "How Broadcasting and Cable Happened (in spite of the FCC)."
Baruch won a long list of accolades during his career, including being named to the Cable Hall of Fame in 2006.
He also was the recipient of cable’s highest honor, the Vanguard Award, three of the NCTA's President's Awards, and its Chairman of the Year Award. In 1994 he was honored with a special award from the International Academy of Television Arts and in 1999, Walter Cronkite presented him with an Emmy for the International Academy of Television Arts& Sciences. In 2011, Baruch was the inaugural recipient of the WNET Distinguished Service Award.
He was a co-founder of C- SPAN, and served as chairman of the NCTA's Pay Cable Committee, instrumental in removing FCC industry restrictions. Baruch was appointed in 1994 as a member of the New York City Cultural Affairs Advisory Commission by former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
Outside of the cable industry, Baruch served as vice chairman of Carnegie Hall, served as a member of the Board of WNET and was a Trustee and member of the Executive Committee of Northwell Health. He also served as a Trustee of the Museum of Television and Radio (now the Paley Center for Media) and was a founder and a Fellow of the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and served on the Board and Executive Committee of the Academy. He was a past-President of both the International Radio & Television Society and its Foundation. In 1985 the IRTS honored him with its Gold Medal, one of the most prestigious awards in communications for his outstanding contributions to the industry. A former director and member of the Executive Committee of the National Cable Television Association, (now the National Cable & Telecommunications Association), Baruch served for seven years as chairman of an NCTA committee instrumental in the passage by Congress of the Cable Act of 1984. Under President Reagan, he served for seven years as chairman of the USIA's Television Communications Board of Advisors and as a member of the President's International Youth Exchange Initiative. In 1988, he served as a Senior Fellow of the Freedom Forum at Columbia University.
Baruch is survived by his wife of 52 years Jean, and four daughters: Eve Baruch, Renee Baruch, Esq., Alice Baruch, M.D., and Michele Baruch Jeffery, son-in-law James Jeffery, and grandchildren Rebecca, Charles and Jane.