Staff at the Sun Prairie Media Center are saddened to report that a key figure in the formation of KIDS-4, the local cable channel that has featured programming for kids by kids since the 1970s, has passed away.
Mary Dorothy “Marieli” Rowe died on December 13, 2020, at the age of 94 following a battle with cancer. Rowe was born on August 13, 1926 in Bonn, Germany, eventually moving with her family first to Switzerland and then to New York City. After getting married in 1949, Rowe and her husband moved to Boulder, Colorado, and then to Madison, Wisconsin in 1957.
It was after the move to Madison that Rowe became interested in the relatively new medium of television, joining the Wisconsin Association for Better Broadcasts, a group dedicated to helping people understand television’s effect on youth. As the WABB eventually evolved into the National Telemedia Council, Rowe became its executive director, leading the organization for over 50 years until the day of her passing.
It was during the 1970s that Rowe, alongside Nancy McMahon, Sharon Garrett, and Bob Rodriguez, formed KIDS-4 in Sun Prairie. The channel was an outgrowth of Rowe’s beliefs that children learn media literacy – the mindful viewing, listening, and reading of media – by producing their own programming. To be “media literate” is to be able to understand, create, evaluate, and thoughtfully participate in all forms of media.
Former Sun Prairie Media Center director Pam Steitz said of Rowe, “Marieli was a gracious, intelligent, and energetic lady. She was a pleasure to work with and was responsible for promoting the education of generations of children in responsible media consumption. She will be missed, and I am deeply saddened by her passing.”
Current SPMC director Jeff Robbins adds, “I am sorry that I never had a chance to meet Ms. Rowe. She was clearly a brilliant person who led a fascinating life, leaving in particular a profound legacy here in Sun Prairie thanks to her innovative and pioneering work in launching KIDS-4. We strive to honor Ms. Rowe’s legacy everyday by continuing to expand the KIDS-4 curriculum to cover new forms of media and the latest equipment, while never straying far from the idea that we are here to help children be better and smarter consumers of media. With the ease of access of media-making tools and the flood of media sources available to children, the work started by Ms. Rowe and carried on by us to this day has never been more relevant.”
KIDS-4, named after its then-channel placement on Sun Prairie cable TV lineups, is currently available in a variety of ways: On channel 984 on Charter Spectrum, on channels 14 and 1014 on TDS, and streaming online at kids4.tv, on the SPMC Roku and Apple TV channels, and on the SPMC app available to download from the App Store or Google Play.
In lieu of flowers, Rowe’s family has asked for gifts and memorials to be sent to the National Telemedia Council, a 501c3 organization, at nationaltelemediacouncil.org.