A leading Welsh government minister has refused to accept live broadcast interviews where she may face unknown questions, for more than three years, Wales Eye can reveal.
Even an interview she gave to BBC Wales a day after a contentious announcement on the £1 billion M4 relief road, was a ‘pre-rec’, or interview transmitted on the evening news but carefully recorded beforehand.
Now there are fears Edwina Hart could be ‘door-stepped’ by news crews, where a camera team arrives unannounced and she is forced to answer more detailed questions about her policies.
The controversy came to a head when Ms Hart would not answer broadcast questions about the disputed decision to build the road, on the day of the announcement.
She made the statement late in the afternoon last Wednesday.
The timing of this major announcement has been questioned, as well as the decision itself.
Ms Hart is now facing a serious rebellion among the Welsh government’s own assembly members, and four have now publicly stated they disagree with the news.
The minister’s general public profile was hugely diminished after an internal investigation of the BBC contributors’ data base, revealed that the economy minister has not made herself available for a live interview since May 2011.
"It is ridiculous that Edwina Hart almost never does interviews," one BBC journalist told Wales Eye.
"We wanted to ask her questions live on air, about spending huge amounts of taxpayers money and criticism from within her own party, but she wouldn’t.
"It’s unbelievably difficult to get hold of her.”
Another broadcast journalist said: "There is a big issue of accountability here.
"I wouldn’t be surprised if news teams decide to ‘door step’ her."
The Brynglas tunnels, a bottle-neck for the M4 now, would be avoided by the new relief road.
But after Ms Hart made the controversial announcement opting for the expensive ‘black route’, she has faced a storm of criticism and calls for more media interviews.
The transport expert who researched the cheaper ‘blue route’ around Newport, Professor Stuart Cole, said: "The economic assessment does not appear to give evidence that the black route will create investment and jobs.
"The decision has been made but previous decisions have been reversed both to build and to cancel this particular investment.
"It is now time to build but given the financial and traffic forecast implications has the right decision been made?"
Ms Hart has held a succession of senior Welsh government posts ever since devolution fifteen years ago but has rarely granted interviews in any of them.
She was for three years from 2000, minister for finance and local government, and was appointed minister for business enterprise following the assembly election in 2011.
Since March last year she has been minister for the economy and transport.
In that time Ms Hart has been responsible for multi million pound budgets.
Serious questions have been raised about her handling of the media as criticism grows over the timing of the new road announcement.
It came a few days before release of a highly-critical report by the assembly’s cross-party environment committee, which is due to be published tomorrow.
In leaked drafts it was revealed the committee had "grave concerns".
Three possible routes for the new M4 were considered, but the fourth cheaper and quicker one - the ‘blue route’ - was also offered.
This would have involved upgrading the Southern Distributor Road and would have been far less expensive.
But in her pre-rec interview, Ms Hart robustly defended her actions, saying government had to ensure it "gets on with governing" and it was up to ministers to "make the decision".
Yet opposition parties are unimpressed, and now Plaid Cymru have withdrawn from talks with Welsh ministers over the budget in protest.
Labour only have 30 of the 60 seats in the assembly and need the support of opposition parties to pass their budget.
In November 2012 Plaid Cymru backed Labour so the budget could be passed, but faced heavy criticism after details of the negotiations emerged.
The then finance spokesperson and former Plaid Cymru leader Ieuan Wyn Jones was appointed head of a science park on Anglesey which was created as part of the deal (see ).
Labour must now turn to the Liberal Democrats for help in passing their annual budget.
But reports within the party confirm they too may soon announce abandoning any negotiations with Labour on the budget.
Furthermore Lib Dem economy spokesperson Eluned Parrot has been strident in her condemenation of the decision to choose the black route for the relief road.
Her comments leave the party little room for manoeeuvre.
She said: ”This decision is a huge mistake, and completely flies in the face of the environmental and economic issues that have been raised by the Welsh Liberal Democrats and many other organisations throughout this process.
"The consultation process appears to have been nothing more than a sham.
"The Minister’s claim that there were no reasons why the ‘black route’ could not be adopted completely ignores evidence".
After the announcement to adopt the black route, four assembly members from the Welsh government’s own party - Labour’s Mick Antoniw, Julie Morgan, Julie James and Jenny Rathbone - criticised the decision to choose it on environmental grounds and because of the timing.
In the past leading UK government ministers were used to fielding questions from the media.
But, it appears, not so in Wales.
Five years ago Ms Hart stood in Labour’s Welsh leadership election.
As she launched her manifesto she said: "When my mother was born, women in Wales had never had the vote.
"Now, less than a century later, I am a candidate to be the first woman to lead our party in Wales."
Perhaps Ms Hart should be told in the 21st century dealing with the media is a vital part of the job.