another publication by IMAGE asia

Byron Jones

Byron Jones, Managing Director of Media Business Services and founder 91.5FM Phuket Radio, describes how his plans to retire quietly in Phuket ended with the chance to take the island’s English language media in new directions.

Where are you from?
I was born in South Wales, but spent most of my adult life in Worcestershire, in central UK.

When did you first come to Phuket?
I first came on holiday to learn to dive 11 years ago. On the second trip I met my now wife, Rung, in Bangkok... and the rest is history. I went back to the UK and had the opportunity to leave my job early and decided to move to Phuket full time.

What were you doing before you moved here?
I was involved in logistics. The last five years I was there I worked for a large logistics company. I came to Phuket to retire.

But you aren’t retired now. What happened?
When you first come here it’s fantastic because it feels like an extended holiday – back in 2002 it was a lot quieter. I was doing a few bits and pieces, internet work, that kind of thing. We built a few projects, apartments mainly. Then the opportunity came along to set up what is now 91.5FM. That was in early 2008.

It opened my eyes to what was happening in broadcasting in Thailand. In 2008 it was being deregulated, opening up to advertising. Rung and I got married in March 2008 after being together for seven years. We went to New Zealand to get married, came back and established 91.5FM. We put a lot of the plan together on our honeymoon.

Tell us more about 91.5FM Phuket radio.
Without a doubt, we’ve completely changed the broadcast environment in Phuket. We looked at the marketplace and set out to differentiate from anything that existed. In late 2008, we became broadcast partners with the BBC and consequently most of everything we do falls within BBC criteria, which sets us apart from others.

We see ourselves as a commercially operated community radio station. We’re very focused on the local community and the fundraisers within that local community − and wherever possible we help them.

We have over 80,000 people from around the world listening to 91.5FM Phuket radio online, and in March this year, for the first time, they came from over 100 countries. We’ve got our own Android and iPhone applications and we’ve seen more than 30,000 downloads of the latter.

What do you like most about living in Phuket?
The lifestyle. It can be very frustrating living here with certain things but there’s other aspects are just awesome − for example, how you can get most things done quickly and the willingness of people to help. Even when it’s pouring down with rain, it’s still hot. It’s the perfect climate for me. There’s no damp, cold, frost snow... none of that stuff. If it drops down to 22 degrees, I’m looking for my pyjamas!

What kind of car do you drive?
I’m driving a Mitsubishi Triton. I need a 4WD truck since some of the work at the radio station involves visiting the transmission point up on the mountain for the radio station. But one of the things I’m disappointed about living in Thailand is that I’m unable to afford a better car because of the import duties.

There are two bones of contention for me in Thailand: the cost of wine and the cost of an imported vehicle. I believe at my stage of life I should be able to own a Merc or BMW, but I won’t because of the cost. Same with the cost of wine. You go out to eat and find that you’ve paid more for wine than for the food. I know this is a bone of contention for a lot of people.

You’ve recently joined Phuket Raceweek as co-organiser. Tell us more about your involvement in this event.
Rung and I have owned a media company, Media Business Services (as well as Phuket FM Radio) for some time and we’ve always had a plan to become involved in quality events. In the early days, we would be media partners for a number of events around the island.

Just recently, towards the end of 2012, we’ve started to lift our profile even further in events. Rather than just be a media partner, we’re trying to take additional value from an event and in return for that additional value we’re elevating our position within that event. Phuket Raceweek completely fits this strategy.

As well, as a radio station we work a lot with the schools, both international and Thai, so I see it as a social responsibility for the radio station to try to get people involved with healthy activities. The promotion of youth sailing is of particular interest to me because I'm a sailor and I know what it was like when I first learnt.

Do you do much sailing yourself?
I get invited out sailing a lot. I joined the Ao Chalong Yacht Club last October, and I’m probably going to get involved with the club racing soon. I used to have my own yacht. I spent five years on a liveaboard in the Mediterranean from 1988 to 1992, a 50-foot sailboat. I took it across the Atlantic twice, to the Caribbean and more. I’m a true free spirit. I know of no other sport or pastime like sailing and being on the water that allows that spirit to flow.