Robert M. Batscha, who helped to enhance the cultural importance of television throughout his 22-year presidency of the Museum of Television & Radio, died Friday in Manhattan of cancer. He was 58.
The chairman of the museum, Frank Bennack, said Batscha “significantly expanded the museum’s collection of radio and television program and advertisements, oversaw the building of the museum’s two facilities in New York and Los Angeles, and secured the museum’s place as a renowned institution respected around the world.”
Batscha was originally appointed president in 1981 by the museum’s founder, William S. Paley, chairman and founder of CBS. Batscha more than fulfilled his mandate, which was to preserve “the historical and cultural legacy of TV and radio for the general public.”
Under Batscha’s presidency, the museum’s collection ballooned from 5,000 programs to more than 120,000. The mix included not only classic American TV shows like “The Honeymooners” and “I Love Lucy” but international shows, advertisements and “lost” programming such as the original kinescope of the live TV production of the classic drama “12 Angry Men” from the early ’50s.
Born in Rochester, N.Y., Batscha got a Ph.D. in political science from Columbia U. From 1972 to 1975, he was senior consultant to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris.
Before joining the museum, Batscha served as president of the Population Resource Center for four years.
He is survived by a former wife and by a son.