The Honoured Inductees to the SINGAPORE WOMEN’S HALL OF FAME

Meet the remarkable women of Singapore and be inspired by their stories! Explore the Hall by category of achievement, or browse through the alphabetical list of their names. In future, you will be able to view the honourees by their year of induction.

WONG-LEE SIOK TIN

Standard setter for Singapore’s broadcast journalists

Wong-Lee Siok Tin devoted her life to broadcasting. Joining the Ministry of Culture’s Department of Broadcasting as a programme assistant in 1961, she became in 1978 the first woman to head the department. Her excellent command of English and her attention to detail set the tone for independent Singapore’s early generation of English-language broadcast journalists.

Born in 1938, Siok Tin was very active in the drama club at her school, the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus. Her crisp and clear articulation and pronunciation meant she regularly landed leading roles in school plays. In 1955 she was the winner of the Singapore Rotary Public Speaking Contest for Schools.

She took her first step into broadcasting in the late 1950s when, while still a student, she became a part-time announcer with Radio Malaya. After graduating with an honours degree in English from the University of Singapore, Siok Tin was briefly a teacher at Raffles Girls School before she made broadcasting her career.

A major assignment early in her career was to accompany then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew on the first of his trips to London to negotiate Singapore’s independence and merger with Malaya. She impressed Mr Lee with her ability to capture succinctly in her daily reports the key points of the talks, and her understanding of the role of the media in nation-building. She subsequently accompanied him on many of his official trips. He trusted her and listened to her advice on scripting and presentation.

As she rose through the ranks, first becoming head of the Central Productions Unit, then deputy director of broadcasting and then the first woman director, Siok Tin earned the respect and affection of her staff with her professionalism and expertise, her calm and caring leadership style, and her honesty and integrity.

In 1980 the Singapore Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) was formed to take over from the Culture Ministry the running of Singapore’s radio and television stations. Siok Tin was appointed deputy general manager. She was the only person on the SBC Board with any broadcasting experience. The following year she became the general manager.

As a statutory board, SBC had greater flexibility to respond to the changing expectations of Singapore audiences who increasingly wanted their radio and television stations to be more than the propaganda arm of the government. The new staff that SBC hired were, similarly, keen to try new approaches.

Siok Tin understood this and, as much as possible, gave them the leeway to experiment, particularly the Current Affairs team that, under her guidance, produced some excellent documentaries. She listened to the producers’ proposals, sometimes tempering their enthusiasm with her experience and understanding of the policymakers’ priorities, and often gave them the go-ahead.

She also saw the need for more and more niche programming, and this led to the creation of, for example, Symphony, the classical radio station, and Channel 12, the arts television channel.

Throughout her 30 years in broadcasting, she was a stickler for good grammar and proper pronunciation, especially in the reading of the news. If she heard a mispronunciation, she would make a note and point it out to the announcer later.

In 1991, when she was 53, Siok Tin was diagnosed with cancer and she retired. In 1993 she succumbed to the disease.

"The fruits of their brainstorming and efforts to improve their place, improve their method of working or how to do things right the first time or how to reduce the cost of doing things."
– Wong-Lee Siok Tin, November 1989

"The person where the buck stops"
– Peter Lim, Former Editor-In-Chief, Straits Times Group

"She was able to pick up Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s inner thoughts and real feelings about certain situations."
– Peter Lim, Former Editor-In-Chief, Straits Times Group

– TrailBlazers DVD Disc 2