Cher put it best when she sang, “If I could turn back time, if I could find a way, I’d take back those words.”
On June 17, CNN published a story about the Norwegian island of Sommarøy’s bid to become the world’s first time-free zone.
Since publishing the piece, CNN has learned that news of the time-free zone was, in fact, a marketing stunt by Norway’s state-funded tourism agency Innovation Norway, working with its promotion organization Visit Norway.
We were right when we said that in Sommarøy – which lies north of the Arctic Circle – the sun doesn’t set from May 18 through to July 26.
And we were also right in saying the locals, having endured the long polar night from November to January, make the most of these precious summer months, with no regard to conventional timekeeping.
And the time-free zone? Partly true, but somewhat overcooked by Norway’s PR machine.
Marianne Mork, head of business communications for Visit Norway, confirmed to CNN on June 26 that an initiative for a time-free zone did originate with the islanders some time ago, with local Kjell Ove Hveding acting as representative for the group.
However, the Innovation Norway team worked with the islanders to capitalize on this effort and turn it into a tourism campaign.
After meeting with the agency, islanders gathered at a town hall meeting to sign a petition for a time-free zone and, on June 13, Hveding met with a Norwegian member of parliament to hand over the locals’ signatures and to discuss the initiative.
As Hveding said in the press statement quoted in our original story, “There’s constantly daylight, and we act accordingly.”
Time-free living is a long-standing practice on the island. “To many of us, getting this in writing would simply mean formalizing something we have been practicing for generations,” he said in the statement issued by Visit Norway on June 17.
Mork has since told CNN that the tourism agency regrets not clarifying its part in driving this story.
“We apologize as we should have been more clear from the start about the role of the agency,” Mork said. “However, the initiative is real and came from the islanders themselves, and their time-free way of living is real.”