Getting behind the police tape with Foxtel’s CI Channel

ci channel

• Jim Buchan on why “there absolutely can’t be any glorifying of crime”

July 31st marked the beginning of National Missing Persons Week, and as always, Foxtel’s CI Channel is throwing its support behind the cause.

This month’s documentary slate kicks off with The Missing Children from 7.30pm, August 2nd, and will continue on to include shows like Cold Case Killers, Killer in my Village, Moment of Proof and Killer USA with Brian Ross.

Mediaweek spoke to Jim Buchan, Foxtel’s group general manager of factual, about what keeps audiences coming back to true crime, and how the genre has evolved.

CI Channel

Jim Buchan

By its very nature, true crime will always be shining the spotlight on some of the worst parts of humanity. With calls for ethical true crime on the rise, Buchan says that the team at CI are “absolutely” conscious of presenting the victims’ stories with respect.

There absolutely can’t be any glorifying of crime. If something is a little too intense, we ask questions. How and why did this happen? The tonality of how these programs message is of key importance to us, that’s something we tread very carefully with.

“True crime is nothing new, it’s a leading genre in literature and movies. It’s just making sure that it’s framed correctly.”

Buchan is one of the people who was involved with the launch of CI, which first hit the airwaves on January 1st, 2005. Looking back, Buchan says that the channel’s inception was originally due to an overflow of content for the ever-popular History Channel.

A&E Networks had a lot of content that we couldn’t air on the History Channel, and there was this growing need to accommodate it. We came up with this idea of a 24 hour true crime channel – it’s actually something we proposed to A+E Networks. They wanted to call it i24, but we pushed hard for ‘crime’ to be in the title.”

Whilst Buchan says he had some concerns about finding content when CI first launched, the years that followed showed that he had no reason to worry.

“There was a big challenge in my mind: is there enough content crime in the world to populate this channel? I remember going to the markets and looking around, it just wasn’t in the abundance it is now. But I had nothing to worry about, because the amount of crime that has been documented is quite incredible. It’s only grown since then.”

Cold Killer Cases – airs Thursdays at 7.30pm from August 4th

Back in 2005, people were happily layering their polo shirts and wearing dresses over jeans, although those aren’t the only trends that have come and gone since then. In the 17 years since CI launched, Buchan says that the true crime landscape has seen some major shifts.

“The proliferation of tabloid crime has been interesting to see grow. Blue light cop shows are a staple, but they’ve broadened. I think the advent of dash cams and body cams have allowed for more immersive examples of shows where you have that access.

Crime shows used to be very self-contained, but with podcasts, they unfold slowly. I think audiences like to be led on these thrilling rides of stories. They become fascinated with the detail. It used to be very important to have a concluding program, but that’s not always the case now.”

One thing that hasn’t changed over time is that CI’s audience skews definitively towards older, female viewers – something that Buchan says he didn’t expect initially.

“I don’t want to gender stereotype too much, but you think that it’s about violence, therefore, it’s probably more of a male thing. It isn’t about violence, per se – it’s about all the impulses that lead up to the crime and the aftermath that tends to be of interest to the female demographic. Beyond gender, there’s definitely a real psychographic component to our core true crime audience and they are very loyal to our offering”

With National Missing Persons Week underway for 2022, Buchan says that scheduling for the channel revolves around doing what they can to assist ongoing investigations. In 2021 more than 53,000 people were reported missing in Australia and although going missing is not a crime it’s important to determine the reasons behind many of these cases and many cases are resolved through better community understanding of the issue.

The Missing Children is a really good series. We’ve got The Disappearance of Shannon Matthews, about a mother who arranged for her daughter’s kidnapping, so she could collect the ransom. Anything we can do to raise awareness of missing persons during that week, we’ll do that.”

Throughout the year, however, programming comes down to the audience’s shifting interests throughout the day.

“The schedule generally will revolve around time slots that tend to perform well. Early evening is more of those blue light, reality-style shows like Cops and Court Cam. Then we move into that primetime docu-drama, which is a staple of CI. That really fascinates the audience. And any time we can get local stories out there, we certainly will.”

Local stories are a big focus for the team at CI, with Buchan saying that the future holds more Australian true crime stories – as there are certainly plenty that haven’t been told.

“There are some key ingredients that fascinate the world about Australia – anything that includes backpackers or the Outback travels internationally as appears quite exotic to foreign audiences. But anything local performs very, very well, and we’ve had a lot of success. In fact, we won the Logie with Ron Iddles: The Good Cop in 2019 – a series that has been imitated since.

“In general, we’re always looking for stories that are compelling and that are a little different. We’ll just keep our eyes open for new formats that are going to work for us and maintain the ones that already do.”

Top Image: Killer USA with Brian Ross, airs Thursdays at 8.30pm from August 4th

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