“We don’t know when it will be possible to broadcast again, but you can be sure we shall be back. Keep twiddling those dials . . . . Keep each other safe. Keep faith. Good night.”
During the Second Wizarding War, after Lord Voldemort, his Death Eaters and other followers had taken over the Ministry of Magic, all magical media were rigidly censored. The main sources of news, such as The Daily Prophet and Wizarding Wireless Network News, were all, as Ron put it, “following You-Know-Who’s line” (DH22). This consisted mainly in slandering Harry Potter as “Undesirable No. 1,” arousing prejudices against Muggles, and delivering Voldemort’s propaganda. But one renegade Wizarding Wireless Network program was launched and managed to regularly broadcast the truth about Harry’s heroic efforts and about what was really going on in the Wizarding and Muggle worlds: Potterwatch.
To avoid detection by Voldemort, Death Eaters, or the puppet Ministry of Magic, Potterwatch did not broadcast every night and was broadcast from a different location each time (DH20). In addition, it was impossible to tune in to the program unless you spoke a password while tapping your wand on your wizarding radio (DH20). This password typically was related to the Order of the Phoenix, and was announced during the previous Potterwatch broadcast (DH22). The password for the program Harry, Ron and Hermione listened to in March 1998 was “Albus,” which Ron remembered only months after rejoining Harry and Hermione in the Forest of Dean. At the end of the March 1998 program, the password for the next program was announced: “Mad-Eye” (DH22)
Potterwatch was hosted by a boon companion of Fred and George Weasley’s school days, who’d gained broadcasting experience of a sort as the commentator for Hogwarts Quidditch matches: Lee Jordan (PS11). For their protection, Lee and other Potterwatch broadcasters and guests used code names on the air; Lee’s code name was “River.” Other Potterwatch broadcasters included:
Kingsley Shacklebolt, code named “Royal”
Remus Lupin, code named “Romulus”
Fred Weasley (according to Ron: “It’s Fred, I think”), code named “Rapier” (formerly and briefly, “Rodent”).
Introductory comments and news announcements by “River”
Updates on the effect of “the new Wizarding order” on the Muggle world, delivered by “Royal”
The popular regular segment “Pals of Potter,” hosted by “Romulus”
News on the “Chief Death Eater” (Voldemort), reported by new correspondent and inveterate jokester “Rapier.”
Memorable Potterwatch Quotes
“. . . [we] apologize for our temporary absence from the airwaves, which was due to a number of house calls in our area by those charming Death Eaters.”
“ . . . it’s one short step from ‘Wizards first’ to ‘Purebloods first,’ and then to ‘Death Eaters.’ . . . We’re all human, aren’t we? Every human life is worth the same, and worth saving.”
“I suppose it helps, when escaping from Death Eaters, if you've got a sixteen-foot-high half brother?” . . .
“It would tend to give you an edge . . . ”
—River and Romulus discussing Hagrid's escape from arrest
“So, people, let’s try and calm down a bit. Things are bad enough without inventing stuff as well. For instance, this new idea that You-Know-Who can kill with a single glance from his eyes. That’s a basilisk, listeners. One simple test: Check whether the thing that's glaring at you has got legs. If it has, it’s safe to look into its eyes, although if it really is You-Know-Who, that’s still likely to be the last thing you ever do.”