Think Susie Blake in Victoria Wood on TV.
We had a TV Times. That was it. It sat on the desk, open on the day’s page, ready for any catastrophe. Usually we only had to introduce the programmes or look ahead to what was coming up but occasionally a tape would snap or a live link go down and we had to fill until everything was sorted . The Transmission Controller…the engineer cum technical producer, would (unlike Radio 4 when it was all down to us) fix the technical problems, and to give himself time to do that, he’d hiss “You’re on!” and you’d switch on your light and smile at the camera, praying the terror in your heart didn’t show in your eyes.
One of my colleagues was launched into a breakdown situation with an “I’m coming to you” from the TC. She switched on her light, smiled bravely, apologised for the the break in transmission, reached over for her TV Times and managed, somehow to knock it off the far side of the table to the floor. Quick as a flash, she switched off her light, and in the gloom, slid down in her chair, crawled under the desk, rescued the magazine, got back to her chair, took a deep breath, set her smile and turned her light back on. Then without a word of explanation she told the viewers what they might expect on their TVs later on that evening. Marvellous.
One day, when I’d only been there a few weeks, the boss called me into his office. “Sit down”, he gestured to a chair, “What’s all this I see? A new programme on the BBC? You do realise you’re contracted to HTV?”
I was mystified and asked him to show me the paper. Annie Rice was, I read, about to present a new programme for the BBC.I realised at once what must have happened. “That’s not me…it’s Anneka,” I said.
I rang Equity, the actor’s union, to which I and most presenters belonged. Everyone in the union has to have an original name, to avoid confusion. That’s one of the reasons so many people change their names when they go into the entertainment industry. Anneka, I was told, had been told to change her name because of the existence of another Annie Rice (me) in the union. So, she’d duly changed it to Anneka but of course lots of people carried on calling her Annie.
Equity said I should get an apology and Anneka would be told to stick to Anneka. But I thought, why bother? I had a new career and a newish name…my married name, it would be so much easier to change my professional name to Annie McKie.
So the strip of cardboard which was slid in front of the camera in order to identify the presenter (this was a few years before electronic captions) was changed from Annie Rice to Annie McKie.