Whilst for many viewers the Big Brother experience on Channel 5 has soured somewhat, for Nikki Cowan it's personal. Living only a stone's throw away from Elstree Studios in Borehamwood, he's perfectly placed to be the official reporter for Big Brother's Bit on the Radio, the unofficial but increasingly popular radio show. Each week he attends the live shows and chats with members of the audience. Later in the night, he reports his experiences live on the radio.
After twice using an Applause Store ticket, on his third visit security and members of the crew referred to him as "the guy from the radio", and he was offered a pass. On subsequent visits he didn't even have to show his ticket. He could simply go to the office, request his pass and sign it out. One visit it was suggested he attend the spin-off show Big Brother's Bit on the Side, though he was advised not to plug the radio show. This was fine by Nikki, who happily accepted the offer.
On Big Brother's Bit on the Side he kept his promise, but he did mention the live feed, much to the delight of many viewers. He also admits to using a "rude word" towards Darryn Lyons. Despite that, he was told he'd been a great guest and would be welcome back.
Unfortunately, it all went downhill from there. "After spending five hours at the compound for the finale of Celebrity Big Brother and having lovely chats with Sally Bercow, Kerry Katona, Brian Belo and Marcus Akin ,and leaving on a high to do the radio show... the next day, for no reason, I was banned.
I arrived to report from the live launch of civilian Big Brother and was greeted on the door by a panicked and irate producer. She instructed the security guards to barricade the entrance and not let me in. As if I was going to rush the gate. She insisted I wasn't with the radio show. She then refused to speak to me."
Nikki ended up going to the main gate, where he was met by security once again. He asked to speak to a producer, and a Bit on the Side crew member told him that it had nothing to do with them; they had no control. They suggested he get in touch with one of the main producers during the week. Feeling rather puzzled, Nikki went home.
"That week I spoke to one of the producers of Bit on the Side, who told me I had upset someone on Big Brother by saying I had permission to be there from him. I unequivocally denied it, as that was a total lie. He said he would find out more and call me back.
When he called me back he told me categorically that, as long as I had a press pass or an audience pass I was allowed back and that I was most certainly not banned. I therefore got myself an Applause Store ticket, like I'd done every time, and went back on Friday."
On the Friday, he discovered that matters had not been solved. Soon after arriving for Tashie's eviction, a member of the Applause Store team asked to see his ticket. Nikki showed it to him, and the team member took it and walked off.
Nikki made his apologies to the people in the queue who he was talking to and followed the team member. At that point he was beckoned over by a police officer and surrounded by security. "I could hear people in the queue gasping and muttering as I was treated like a felon and questioned over my reasons for being there."
He was told by the police that he was not coming onto the site, and that he should go home. Feeling confused, he asked to speak to someone higher up. There'd obviously been a mix up; he'd been told, after all, that he wasn't banned.
Accompanied to the main gate by a member of security and the police officer, he was told over the phone by a member of the production team that they had no problem with him being on the show. They claimed it was full and that they had no control over who the main show let in. They stated they didn't know why he was banned or if, indeed, he even was.
"I was told by the police officer in a very condescending manner that I'd be best off going home. I reminded the officer that I was still allowed on Tesco's land, which Big Brother use for the fans to queue up before the gates open. The security guard concurred, telling me not to cross the railings where the people queue. I duly conceded but returned to the queue."
That night, Nikki had with him a set of posters inspired by housemate Tashie's fish finger incident. Designed by a listener of the radio show, Twitter followers loved it so much that Nikki had a set printed to hand out to audience members. "In my possession that day were 52 posters, A3 size in colour with pictures of Big Brother housemate Tashie crying with a fish finger wedged in her mouth. Down the side of the picture was her name spelt using only the bread-crumbed-meal-time-favourite. As I spoke to people for their opinions, I gave out a free poster."
Right after handing out the last one, security marched down the queue and shouted for the posters to be handed in. The people in the queue were in shock, according to Nikki, and asked to be allowed to keep them, even if just as a souvenir. They were told that the only way to keep their posters would be if they left with them now - they'd not be allowed to take them in. If they did want to come in, they had to hand over their posters, which would be burned.
"I was even told not to do it and that it was wrong. I left soon after, telling the queue not to get into trouble over me."
Nikki was further surprised when he received a tweet from one of his contacts inside the compound, who'd taken a photograph of warm-up act Andy Collins telling the audience that if they were in possession of one of the posters that they "must hand them in or get booted out!"
"Needless to say I was not in a good mood for the radio show that night and shall not bother trying to get back in this week. I will, however, still talk to the queue. Let them try and stop me!"
Nikki's experiences are the most recent in a series of events that have left fans of Big Brother confused and dismayed. Several viewers, making use of the show's Facebook page, have found themselves blocked from the page and even banned from the social networking site altogether. They insist that their comments weren't rude of controversial, nor did they spam the page - one poster only left a single message with a polite request for live streaming.
Viewers from outside the UK, including those from Ireland, are unable to view the clips on Facebook, lauded as the new way to enjoy the Big Brother experience.
Channel 5's press office has been invited to respond to Nikki's experiences, but thus far there has been no comment.
Follow Kit Marsters on Twitter: www.twitter.com/JKMarsters