Born Sylvia Lucia Petronzio, she was a former musical actress who appeared in revues including one at The Coliseum marking VE Day. She joined the BBC in 1947 after answering a newspaper advertisement for an announcer, with a salary of £500-a-year. She was one of the post-war trio of announcers who stayed until 1958. The female announcers wore patterned evening dresses, never stripes or checks which made the picture strobe, and shoulders were covered by shawls and cleavages disguised by plastic flowers. There was no autocue, rehearsals or editing. “We were on every night. There was no-one else,” she said. “When I first went to the BBC, people did not admit they had a set. They would say, ‘the servants have one and I occasionally see it downstairs’.”
Sylvia was chosen to present the BBC’s coverage of HM The Queen’s Coronation on 2nd June 1953. She explained: “Part of the reason I was chosen was I had a very good memory. I was given the script the night before and had to learn it in time. I was also the same age as the Queen, which they liked.” Peters recorded a training film in 1957 for HM The Queen to prepare her for her first televised Christmas broadcast. It demonstrated different possibilities, including reading the script and, by that stage, autocue. The Queen took it to Balmoral for the summer to study what best to do. She chose autocue, her broadcasting method of choice ever since.
Sylvia presented BBC TV’s Come Dancing (1954, 1958 – 1959) and For Deaf Children (1956). She voiced the animated series Bengo (1953 – 1958).
In 1958, Peters retired as an announcer, though she continued as an infrequent broadcaster for a further 30 years: she introduced Ladies’ Day at Ascot; she presented the early ITV product placement show Jim’s Inn; she appeared in occasional documentaries on Southern TV, where she was a founding member of Houseparty (1968); she appeared as herself in an episode of Sykes (1977).
Sylvia opened a children’s clothing store in Wimbledon in 1963. And that would be followed, some years later (1977), by the addition of a shop for women’s fashion.
She came out of retirement in the 1980s to work as a presenter on the Channel 4 series Years Ahead. And in November 1986, she would return to the BBC as an in-vision announcer on BBC Two to celebrate TV50, the 50th anniversary of BBC Television. In 2013, she presented a digitally remastered version of The Coronation. As part of the official opening of BBC New Broadcasting House (2013), she was introduced to HM The Queen, alongside Peter Dimmock.
Sylvia was married to Kenneth Milne-Buckley, her first studio manager at the BBC. Her daughter, Carmella Milne, is a legendary floor manager, and has worked at the BBC for many years on shows including Top of the Pops, Going Live! and Blue Peter.
Sylvia died in 2016, aged 90.
Video Clips on the Internet
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The Guardian's Sylvia Peters obituary.
PICTURED: Sylvia Peters. SUPPLIED BY: Paul R. Jackson. COPYRIGHT: BBC.