To ask if Washington is ready for shock radio assumes there is a place for it when the time is right.

The real question is not when, but why.

Radio is a business, one that is regulated by the government. It is also regulated by listeners, because radios have on/off switches and dials with many stations from which to choose.

But, most important, radio is regulated by the broadcaster's responsibility to the community. The broadcaster serves the community by keeping in touch, getting involved and being concerned. I agree with banker Luther Hodges, chairman of the Washington-Baltimore Regional Association, who said: "Corporate social responsibility cannot be legislated; it flows naturally out of a successful, well-managed company."

Radio in Washington is different, because Washington is like no other city; it is the center of an international community. While New York may lead in the arts and entertainment, Chicago in manufacturing and Los Angeles in "popular culture," Washington is where opinion and policy are born.

We live in an area with double the national average of college graduates, far more white-collar than blue-collar workers and more women in the work force than any other market. It is a place where national news is often our local news.

President Kennedy once quipped that Washington is a city that combines northern charm with southern efficiency. But today there is a measure of maturity and dignity that has come to characterize our area. As a third-generation Washingtonian, I have seen our home grow from a small town to an international city that commands the attention of the world. As the communications capital of the West, Washington should set the standard for responsible, concerned media that can serve as a model for the entire country.

In this context, it is not a question of whether Washington is ready for shock radio; if Washington media are going to set the standard for the country, we must reflect what is best in contemporary broadcasting. Washington broadcasters must demonstrate that there is no place for shock radio and certainly not in the nation's capital.