It was for the kids.
Every hip-hop song, rap tune and reggae beat played from the small,
Liberty City-based 97.7 FM station reached out to the neighborhood’s young
people.Its creators say “Hot 97” provided helpful information and promoted
morals. But while the owners and others in the community called the
underground station a blessing, the feds called it illegal.
Last week, the Federal Communications Commission confiscated the station’s transmitter, turntables and mixer, unplugging the popular, albeit unlicensed, station. On Saturday, supporters held a rally in front of the station at 6680 NW 18th Ave., blasting tunes from a wall of speakers and gathering petition signatures to help bring back the station.
“We were filling a void no one had filled before,” said Brindley “Bo
the Lover” Marshall, 35, the station’s founder and main disc jockey. The
FCC was unable to provide information Friday afternoon about the shutdown
of 97.7. But Marshall acknowledges he never applied for a
license when he first put his station on the air two years ago. Drawing in listeners with “old school” tracks from groups like Soul Sonic Force and Sugarhill Gang, the station also held live call-in
forums with topics ranging from teen pregnancy to drug use.
The station also held fund-raisers. When 5-year-old Rickia Isaac was killed by a stray bullet last year, Hot 97 raised $7,000 to help her family bury her, Marshall said. “This radio station is the center point of the community,” said Miami-Dade Police Officer Kanya Howard, a community resources officer. “They help us out a lot. It’s sad, as soon as we were working together, it’s disbanded.”
So-called pirate radio stations are an ongoing problem for the FCC,
which licenses the airwaves to prevent annoying and sometimes dangerous
frequency interference, FCC spokesman David Fiske said. “We had a case
last fall where Miami International Airport was calling about interference,
' Fiske said. “Someone blaring rock music could make it difficult for the
tower to communicate. There could be a small plane that might not even
be heard.” Fiske said investigators have shut down about 255 unlicensed
stations nationwide in the past 12 months. About 85 pirate radio
operating, he said.
Though Marshall would not discuss the specifics of his transmitter, he said its signal was strong enough to be heard from South Broward to Key Largo. Two lawyers are currently trying to get Marshall back his equipment and file the necessary paperwork to bring back the station. They’re donating their services.
Marshall, who was raised in the community and attended Miami Northwestern High, said he hopes to round up 10,000 signatures to show the courts his station is more than an unwanted pest on the airwaves. And he will fight, he says, until he’s back on the air.
“Just to get to the kids, it’s worth it,” he said. “If we didn’t do it, who will?”
Herald staff writer Bruce Taylor Seeman also contributed to this story.