Exclusive: Lee Lin Chin Quits SBS

Lee Lin Chin talks to Sandra Sully exclusively on her decision to leave SBS.

For more than 30 years, Lee Lin Chin has been the trusted, unmistakable, authoritative and beguiling weekend face and voice of World News SBS.

Not anymore.

This Sunday will be Lee Lin’s last national World News for SBS.

There will be little or no fanfare and surprisingly, that’s just the way she wants it.

"There's not one big reason, there's many small to medium-sized reasons, which for the time being I wish to keep to myself but may talk about one day.  One reason I shall reveal however is that working two days a week didn't give me enough time to devote to the pub and re-reading the complete works of Shakespeare. So now that I work zero days that issue has been addressed," says Lee Lin.

Cheeky as ever, Lee Lin rarely gives interviews and is reluctant to even talk about this monumental decision, however as my good friend tells me, “who else would I trust to break the news?”

I doubt many of her colleagues would have even seen this coming, but she won’t be in the news office again after this weekend.

Her legion of fans will be shocked, but the respected Lee Lin loves her privacy and has just decided she has had enough, and it’s time for a change.

"It has been something I've considered for a number of years now. I thought SBS would just fire me one day so I'd never have to make the decision, they obviously didn't and in fact offered me a two year contract extension at the start of the year. So I had to start considering it a lot more seriously."

"The reason why it took so long was because of the fans. Every day at least five people will approach me and say that they love me on the news and that they watch every week. It does feel slightly as if I am letting them down by leaving. Please don't hate me,” says Lee Lin.

That’s highly unlikely given her cult status on social media, and who can forget the Gold Logie nomination in 2016 -- the first ever for SBS.

This year she tweeted:

There is nothing predictable about the enigmatic Lee Lin.

While serious about news and current affairs, over the past five years or more, she has had me, and countless others, laughing out loud at her hilarious and deliberately outrageous tweets, which have often gone viral.

In 2016, Lee Lin attempted to school Pauline Hanson, after the One Nation party leader boasted about receiving tickets to the inauguration of Donald Trump as President.

She delights in revealing her more irreverent and cheekier side with her extremely wry, acerbic and highly caustic tweets.

Sure, her alter-ego and friend, producer Chris Leben is the comedic brains behind her account, but nothing is said on her behalf, without her knowledge or prior consent.

Always daring to be different and challenge the orthodoxy, who else could have convinced the perceived conservative cohort of Sydney journalists and newsreaders to participate in some of her kooky skits, most notably  - The Real Newsreaders of Sydney.

Or Broadcast Battleground – which featured a cavalcade of newsreaders and journalists, meeting  Lee Lin in an abandoned warehouse for a death match.  Of course, I attempted to strike the final blow!

There have been national petitions for her to host Eurovision. 

And let’s not forget her fashion icon status.

“Her brave and outspoken fashion, worn on a tiny frame, also makes us sit a little straighter: Yes, that is a bird on her shoulder. Yes, that is a fascinator growing out the side of her head. Yes, she is wearing yellow suspenders over a yellow dress-shirt over yellow pants.    Her killer sense of humour and naturalness in front of a camera – delivering news, conducting interviews, being interviewed, hosting children’s shows, appearing in dramas – always has us gasping for more. Who is this woman? “, writes Caitlin Bishop from MammaMia.

After having been a news presenter for so long, I asked her what she had planned next.

"Hopefully many things. I've recently started a production company, All The Chin's Men, with Chris Leben and Daniel Hartley-Allen whom I worked extensively with at The Feed. We already have two shows in development, a comedy travel show with ITV Australia and a comedy espionage show with emotive content. Naturally they're both starring me."

"I'm also looking into the podcast world, I want to host a podcast all about The Beatles, I'd love it if you'd join me for an episode Miss Sully."

"However, I'd like to point out that once a newsreader, always a newsreader. I would be very happy to read the news on a casual basis in the future if someone were willing to have me. Let me know if you need a break, I'm sure I could give Ten a ratings boost."

"Noted,"  says Ross Dagan, Ten’s Network Director Of News Content.

Lee Lin is Jakarta born and Singapore raised to Chinese parents and speaks Cantonese, Mandarin, English and Fukien fluently.

She got her first media break as a radio presenter and migrated to Australia in 1980 where she began working for SBS as a translator for Chinese-language films.   She then landed a stint at the ABC before returning to SBS as a World News presenter.

She is adamant she is not retiring but has decided to quit.

"Retirement is death and I don't plan to die anytime soon”, says Lee Lin.

She won’t be lost to us for long.

Watch this space!