Kevin Milne is one of New Zealand television’s longest-serving reporters, best known for his 26 year run as a reporter and presenter on Fair Go.
Milne's father died when Kevin turned 15. Soon after, his older brother Brian was killed in a car accident, while studying in the United States. Largely disinterested at high school, Milne found confidence during compulsory sessions at the debating club. Although normally reserved, he soon found himself representing the college in public speaking and debating competitions. Milne argues that all secondary schools should include public speaking in their curriculum.
He auditioned to become a radio announcer, but his accent did not fit the accepted style of Queen's English. Milne spent two years of Saturday mornings taking elocution lessons while working as a bank teller, before winning a place on the journalism course at Wellington Polytechnic. In 1970 he was invited to join the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation as a general reporter. Milne resigned six months later, after being told he was being shifted to the radio newsroom in Invercargill. He was lucky; he got transferred to the television desk, where he learnt much about the basics of television news from news editors Doug Eckhoff and Lindsay Shelton.
Milne was working as a plumber's mate in London when he scored a contract with the BBC, writing scripts for show News Extra. Later he fluked a dream job handling orders for a firm owned by the Shah of Iran.
When Milne arrived back in New Zealand in 1976, television had doubled to two channels. Doug Eckhoff offered him a job in the news room of new channel Television One. But Milne's first attempt at live newsreading was so bad, one executive argued he should never go on live television again. Eckhoff gave him another chance. Milne went on to report on the Kaikoura UFO story, which went global, and found himself in newspapers after breaking a story about Railways plans to shut down some services.
When TVNZ was created in 1980, Milne was astonished to learn that a new, amalgamated news centre was being established in Auckland, despite the "immensely more successful and popular TV One news" team being in Wellington. Milne moved sideways into general and special interest programmmes, starting with Production Line, which showcased new Kiwi innovations. It was a time of firsts: the first time Milne was told to wear makeup, or had a producer helping him perform in front of the camera; it was also "the first time there were clapper-boards and people yelling 'Action'. This was the difference between being a news reporter and fronting a production."
With producer Peter Morritt, he helped create whatever-happened-to style show Then Again, then in 1982 began "the toughest work year of my life": as Wellington editor of new mid-evening show Eyewitness News. Milne was in charge of a team of outstanding but "high maintenance" reporters, who were soon in fierce competition with the same channel's primetime news for the best stories. Milne later wrote that for the show's first couple of years, Eyewitness News was "the best news show TVNZ has ever produced".
After a year of five one-hour shows a week, Milne felt exhausted. It was perfect timing to take up an offer to join Fair Go, which by 1984 had already been on air for seven years. Milne learnt a lot from the show's co-creator Brian Edwards and Philip Alpers, who took over presenting duties when Edwards left at the end of Milne's first year. Milne himself would become one of the show's presenters in 1993, though he continued to contribute as a reporter until 2009.
Milne’s Fair Go investigations have produced some of the biggest payouts seen on the programme, including the largest of $350,000, to a former prison officer who had failed to get an insurance payout after slipping over on the job. His two-part investigation into Auckland car dealer Tony Radisich won a raft of newspaper headlines before the show was finally allowed to go to air.
Milne writes in detail about Fair Go and some of its most memorable cases and reporters in his 2010 book The Life and Times of a Brown Paper Bag. Along the way Milne turned himself from an employee into a contractor, and did stints on TVNZ travel show Holiday when Fair Go was off-air. He also travelled to the Ukraine for an episode of Intrepid Journeys, and presented Fair Go spin-off show Kev Can Do.
Milne was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2007 Queen's Birthday Honours, for his services to broadcasting and the community. He also won the 2004 Qantas Media Award for Best Presenter, and a 2009 Qantas Television Award for best News and Current Affairs presenter.
In September 2010, Milne announced he would be leaving TVNZ when Fair Go finished its current season. TVNZ News and Current Affairs head Anthony Flannery said that Milne's contribution to broadcasting and the New Zealand community had made him one of the country's best known and most appreciated public figures. Said Flannery: "There are literally generations of New Zealanders who know that when it comes to consumer rights, Kevin Milne is the man."
Kevin Milne, The Life and Times of a Brown Paper Bag (Auckland:Random House, 2010)
'End of an Era: Kevin Milne to leave TVNZ' TVNZ website. Accessed 29 September 2010