By Patrick Avenell

SYDNEY, NSW: As Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan continues to defend the $308 million digital set top box handout announced on the weekend, Sony Australia MD Carl Rose has called on the industry to do more while objectivist online warrior Ruslan Kogan has essentially slammed it as a waste of money.

Swan has earmarked over $300 million for the plan, which will see pensioners receive a free digital set top box and installation. Swan said 38,000 Australians qualified for the freebie, with a per box cost of between $350 and $400.

Ruslan Kogan, who currently sells set top boxes on his website for $49, said the Government is wasting tax payers’ cash.

“As technology experts, we know that the Government is proposing to spend far too much by allocating $350-plus to each installation of a set top box,” said Kogan from New York City.

“These devices are extremely easy to install: it usually takes just one cable from the set top box to your TV…we think the $350-plus being proposed by the Government is far too much.”

Despite this criticism of the cost, Swan said the program is succeeding.

"This program is working well. It is of great benefit to our pensioners, who have worked hard over generations to make our economy strong and it's an important program and it's one that we strongly support,” said Swan.

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One supporter to emerge Tuesday evening was Sony MD Carl Rose, who said that whilst Australians deserve access to the best technology – virtually implying it was a basic right – the industry must join the Government in providing the knowledge base to society.

“It’s not just the Government’s responsibility to support and educate consumers on the digital switch over, the consumer electronics, retail and media industries must also play a role,” Rose said.

“The fact that over a million Australians have purchased standard definition set top boxes [as opposed to HD boxes that receive more channels] points to consumer confusion.

“We know this kind of confusion may be common when new TV technologies are being introduced, but what local Sony research shows is that Australians value picture quality and HD as the most important factors when looking to purchase a TV.

“This means we want a superior picture, no matter whether we’re surfing the Internet, using Skype or watching 2D or 3D content, whether it’s sourced from digital or IPTV channels, or even from the cloud.”