WASHINGTON — The voice behind the greedy Mr Burns said Friday he offered to take a 70 percent cut in pay to keep "The Simpsons" on the air, only for Fox Television to reject his proposal.

Harry Shearer is among voice cast members locked in a contract dispute with Fox, a unit of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. that is threatening to axe the hit cartoon show after 23 seasons if no deal is reached.

"To make it as easy as possible for Fox to keep new episodes of 'The Simpsons' coming, I'm willing to let them cut my salary not just 45 percent but more than 70 percent," Shearer said in a statement.

"All I would ask in return is that I be allowed a small share of the eventual profits."

But he added that in a meeting Thursday, Fox told his representatives that there were "simply no circumstances" under which it would let voice cast members "share in the show's success."

Fox threatened Tuesday to deep-six "The Simpsons" over the dispute, saying that as "brilliant" as the show may be, the network could not keep producing it under "its current financial model."

Shearer -- who also voices Smithers and Ned Flanders, among other characters, and hosts his own syndicated radio show on the side -- is the first cast member to speak out on the row.

"We've had a great run and no one should feel sorry for any of us," he said in the statement released through his Los Angeles publicist.

"But given how much joy the show has given so many people over the years -- and given how many billions of dollars in profits News Corp. has earned and will earn from it -- I find it hard to believe that this is Fox's final word on the subject. At least, I certainly hope it isn't."

The Daily Beast news website has reported that Fox wants the voices behind Bart, Homer, Marge, Lisa, Krusty the Clown and other "Simpsons" characters to agree to a 45 percent salary reduction.

But the cast members -- including Dan Castellaneta, who voices Homer Simpson, and Nancy Cartwright, alias Bart -- have proposed a 30 percent pay cut so long as they get a slice of syndication and merchandising income.

The six principal voice cast members on "The Simpsons" -- the longest-running animated television show in history -- now earn about $8 million a year each for about 22 weeks of work, according to The Daily Beast.

Wall Street analysts suggest "The Simpsons" might be worth more dead than alive, because News Corp. could sell past episodes to cable and online channels, and not just to local television stations as is now the case.

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