Published on October 22, 2007
After a five-year break, media tycoon MR Rujayapha Abhakorn has returned to the radio business. This time though, the broadcaster is focusing his sights on the airwaves in Phuket, joining forces with a local magazine to bring some easy listening to the island's foreign residents.
"Phuket is one of the Kingdom's biggest cities and a destination with a turnover of 150,000 foreign tourists a day and a resident community of 80,000 expats, according to research conducted by the Tourism Authority of Thailand," says the veteran tycoon.
"I was amazed that no radio stations in the city played international music."
Six months ago, the former Broadcasting Network Thailand managing director, who's affectionately known as Mom Ruj, invested in Phuket Gold FM 95, an English-language station that presents hits from the '70s to the '90s, among them songs by Rod Stewart, Elton John and Eric Clapton.
When asked about the difference in concession costs between Phuket and Bangkok, Mom Ruj just laughs. "It's like a different world," he says.
Two months later, he launched a second radio station, 90.5 FM, which he calls "smooth urban".
"There's been a very enthusiastic response to this new-style station," he says. "It's a mixture of R&B, lounge and smooth jazz, which is the latest trend in America and England."
That's not to say Mom Ruj has forgotten his Bangkok radio roots. Quite the contrary in fact. He's also obtained a radio station, 88 FM, from the Public Relations Department and will be launching it early next month.
"I feel good about it. It's like going back to my old home, Smile Radio, which dates back to the late '70s and early '80s," he says with a fond grin.
"The department's new policy is to attract businessmen, expats and the foreign tourists. That matches my concept. I'm going to bring 24-hour 'smooth urban' to Bangkok."
To achieve a truly international flavour for his radio stations, Mom Ruj has hired a professional programme director along with DJs from England and America. He has also acquired A&R (artist and repertoire) from a world-famous music company. If all goes to plan, he'll be bringing personnel from Gold 90.5 FM to work at 88 FM and the smooth urban sounds will be beamed by satellite down to Phuket.
The two radio stations, he explains, cater to listeners between 25 and 45.
"People of my age don't listen to a station that doesn't play suitable songs. We're a niche market," says Mom Ruj, who has formed Koolest Co Ltd.
In addition to music, the radio station offers information about the stock market, currency exchange rates, travel tips and news headlines.
Right now, he's concentrating on Phuket Carnival Festival 2007, which runs from November 1 to 3.
"Phuket Carnival Festival this year has a new, international concept," he says.
"I will be giving out a 'season bag' to tourists arriving at the airport. Each bag will contain a guidebook and map plus a coupon for foot massage. We aim to give them a really good time during the festival."
The festival, which is costing Bt30 million, features two main stages. The first on Patong Beach offers chill-out music, while the second, at Bangla Road, is the place for dance and hip-hop.
"We have three foreign artists including British jazz-funk band Shakatak joining the Thai bands on each of the three days," he says.
"I expect 300,000 tourists to come to Phuket during the festival."
Mom Ruj is also planning a festival at Khao Lak for December, a 30-minute programme on cable TV before the end of the year and something on free TV next year.
"I had originally planned to go back into the radio business, but the rules on distribution of airtime frequencies by National Broadcasting Commission make this impossible," he says.
"Spending is down too, and the budget for radio is 40 per cent less than it was in the past. I don't find there's much to choose between today's radio stations; the music programming is very much the same and lacks imagination.
"We need good media, quality, creativity and credibility, and our programmes should cater to the right groups. People don't listen to an MP3 all the time. They would tune into the radio far often if we offered them something worth listening to," he says.