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Gerald Slater papers

 Collection 0063-MMC-NPBA

Gerald Slater (1934-2020) helped build PBS as one of its four founding employees and later moved to WETA-TV, the public broadcasting station in Washington, D.C. He began his career in the commercial end of the field, working for Columbia Broadcasting System from 1960 to 1967.

His initial work in public broadcasting included the director of operations of the Public Broadcasting Laboratory from 1967 to 1969. Then, from 1969 to 1970, he served as a project specialist in communications for the Ford Foundation

Slater was general manager of the Public Broadcasting Service from 1970 to 1975, tasked with organizing the first U.S. public television network. In 1973, he became vice-president of broadcasting at PBS and, in 1974, was key in the decision to air the Senate Watergate hearings from gavel to gavel on more than 150 national affiliates. Finally, in July 1975, Slater became executive vice-president of WETA, a position he held until 1989.

The collection consists of correspondence, clippings, interviews, and transcripts on a 1971 investigative report on the FBI by Paul Jacobs for The Great American Dream Machine.


  • 1971
  • Majority of material found within 1971

Use and Access to Collection

This collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies or digital surrogates may be provided in accordance with Special Collections and University Archives duplication policy.

Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs unless otherwise specified. It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission to publish materials from the appropriate copyright holder.

Archival materials may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws or other regulations. While we make a good faith effort to identify and remove such materials, some may be missed during our processing. If a researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff.


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Gerald Slater received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration from New York University. He started his broadcasting career in the commercial end of the field, working for Columbia Broadcasting System from 1960 to 1967. First, from 1960 to 1962, he was a network supervisor, responsible for all operating departments during evenings and weekends as he supervised "on-air" operations for CBS Television Network and WCBS-TV. From 1962 to 1965, as production supervisor, Slater was responsible for production budgets for CBS News. Then, from 1965 to 1967, Slater served as manager of News Production Services. In this job, he created a liaison department between CBS News Division and CBS Television Network to provide central administration of all operations between the two divisions.

Slater's first job in public broadcasting was as director of operations for the Public Broadcasting Laboratory from 1967 to 1969. In this job, he organized all operations of this $15 million experimental weekly television venture funded by a grant from the Ford Foundation to create original drama, arts, and public affairs programming for the first nation-wide public television network. Then, from 1969 to 1970, he worked as a communications specialist for the Ford Foundation. There, as a member of a three person staff responsible for the administration of $18 million in annual television programming grants, Slater initiated, evaluated, and selected program proposals to be funded.

From 1970 to 1975, Slater worked as general manager of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) as he was recruited to organize the first U.S. public television network. His responsibilities included establishment of all operating procedures, design of the public network broadcasting land line and satellite distribution systems, as well as setting policies and directing the Programming, Public Information, Business Affairs, Advertising, Station Relations, Operations and Engineering Departments. He negotiated a reduced rate from AT&T for distributing network programs and he set the policy for the relationship between PBS and member stations. In 1973, he was named vice-president of broadcasting at PBS, where his duties included station relations and public information.

From July 1975 to 1989, Slater was executive vice-president of WETA TV/Radio. Here, he managed all operations of public broadcasting stations WETA-TV and WETA-FM in Washington, DC, making final decisions on all programs, and directing 200 employees including producers, executives, on-air talent, engineers, and technicians. He also represented public broadcasting on official visits to Japan and the Soviet Union. Some specific accomplishments Slater did for WETA include the creation of Smithsonian World, a co-production with the Smithsonian Institution and work as Executive in Charge for the station in the creation of the MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour.

From 1989 to the present, Slater has been working for Rock Creek Productions, serving clients such as the American Museum of National History, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Maryland Public Broadcasting Commission, and the New York City Board of Education. Slater passed away in Washington, DC in April 2020 at the age of 86.


The collection consists of one series.

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

The Gerald Slater papers were donated to the National Public Broadcasting Archives, University of Maryland Libraries by Gerald L. Slater in October of 1990.

Guide to the Gerald Slater papers
Processed by Karen E. King, March 1993. Revised by Karen E. King, August 1993
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Revision Statements

  • 2007-04-15: EAD markup checked and verified using JEdit software by Karen E. King, April 2007.
  • 2009-07-15: EAD revised by Karen E. King, July 2009
  • 2011-04-07: EAD revised by Karen E. King, April 2011
  • 2019-01-18: Finding aid reviewed and minor edits made by Duncan Griffin.
  • 2020-12-16: Biographical note updated by Jen Wachtel to reflect Slater's death in April 2020.
  • 2021-08-06: Jim Baxter re-wrote the collection abstract.

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742