ALMA JOHNSON
Broadcaster
1931

New Zealand's first female television presenter

Alma Johnson became a household name in the 60s - but shunned the celebrity of it, saying she was just doing her public duty.

Johnson began her career as a continuity announcer and hosted evening programmes on AKTV2 out of Auckland from 1960, the year television began in New Zealand under the Broadcasting Service.

She presented a range of shows including ballroom dancing programmes and children's shows.

At the time, being a "continuity announcer" involved being the hostess of the show, saying "welcome to tonight's programmes", while sitting behind a desk with her name on it, she said during an interview before her death.

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Johnson was known for her immaculate hairstyles, perfect diction and stunning on-camera presence.

Radio and TV Broadcasters Club president Ric Carlyon said she did very well adapting to a medium that was new to Kiwis.

"Viewers didn't know quite what to expect, but here she was - she sort of came right through the screen into the living room," he said. "She had many, many fans."

But despite those fans, Johnson never considered herself famous, telling The Listener's David Lomas in 2010: "Television announcing to me was never more than just a job. We were public servants and it never occurred to any of us at the time to think of ourselves as personalities or, heaven forbid, stars. There were, however, a lot of things we were asked to do - opening fairs and judging baby shows, which I enjoyed doing."

She was so unfussy that after her shift, Johnson used to catch the late-night bus home to West Auckland.

In television, she worked alongside fellow presenter Tim Evans-Freke, whom she later married.

On top of her TV career, she was a highly regarded teacher of speech and drama - training fellow broadcaster Carol Hirschfeld - and later became an examiner for the New Zealand Speech Board.