The Role of Radio in “Harry Potter”
At first seemingly for entertainment and news purposes, Potterwatch plays an important role in the Second Wizarding War. Potterwatch is the radio program the golden trio listens to in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. This is the only radio program the reader is exposed to, and it becomes a vessel of hope for the heroes. Even in the Muggle world, this was a time before cell phones and texting, so radio was a common aspect of everyday life. It then makes sense why radio plays a crucial role in the lives of wizards. The final battle took place in 1998, and to gain information about Voldemort and the Death Eaters, Harry listens to the radio.
Instead of spreading war propaganda or biased information, a magical radio seems to be a reliable news source. Specifically, Potterwatch alerts the wizarding world to unreported deaths. The hosts and guests of the radio show discuss deaths and ministry cover-ups no one knows about. They bring to light the sad fact that there are so many innocent casualties during wartime and that these deaths are rarely talked about. The hero and villain are talked about, but no one talks about the many deaths of innocents. This is still a controversial issue today as reporting in the media tends to focus more on the criminal than the victims. Potterwatch is ahead of its time with its sensitivity towards these issues.
Another interesting aspect of magical radio is how Ron accesses Potterwatch. Since the program is produced in secret, it’s difficult to access. Ron needs a password and a wand. While everything else about magical radio seems ingenious in its creation, this doesn’t sound right. It feels arbitrary that Ron has to wave his wand and say a password to the radio. Is it made like a spell where a word and a precise wand movement produce the desired effect? If so, what about the password always changing? If password access works like a spell, how does the radio respond to every password at specific times? How does every wireless radio know that the password has changed each month or so?
While I love the concept of a secret radio program, I want more detail on how the magic of it works. It is reminiscent of other unstated magic in the Harry Potter series, such as the illegal way James, Sirius, and Peter become Animagi. We never find out how the boys accomplished this or how they figured it out, just as we never figure out how Fred, George, and Lee Jordan create Potterwatch.
I wish Potterwatch had been included intermittently in the book. There’s this build-up of Ron trying to access the program but not succeeding. Once he does, we hear the broadcast, and then that’s it. It’s hardly discussed in the rest of the book. The broadcast is in chapter 22, “The Deathly Hallows,” halfway through the book. By the time we get to this part of the book, we’re already exhausted from all the information being dumped on us. Specifically, readers are tired of the camping trip. Of course, the radio isn’t the main focus of the story, but having it sprinkled throughout all the chapters would have made it feel more important. Having it dropped in the reader’s lap felt like a filler scene, something to make the book denser. The radio gave the golden trio hope, so it deserved more page time.
Most of all, the radio provided a much-needed diversion from the depressing and hopeless camping chapters. These chapters were excellent for character dialogue and relationship tension, but the trio was stuck in the woods for so long. They had little knowledge of the outside world and what was going on, so the radio became their salvation. It was the solution to an unspoken problem: How was the golden trio supposed to know how the war was going while they were off searching for Horcruxes?
By the time the trio hears the broadcast, they’re desperate for information. Not only are they relieved to have this information via Potterwatch but they are getting their news from a trusted source. It was thrilling for the trio and readers to be reunited with the voices of Fred, George, Lee Jordan, Lupin, and Kingsley. One of the most wonderful moments is when Harry hears Lupin say he believes in Harry. This was a welcome relief given that the last time Harry and Lupin saw each other, they had a heated argument. It was also nice for readers to know that some of their favorite characters were still alive. All thanks to the radio.