The Post {editorial, June 24} condemns the Fairness Doctrine as "misnamed," "harmful," "repulsive." This is strong language indeed to describe a modest obligation that broadcasters assume when they receive exclusive rights to a public resource, the electronic frequency on which they transmit. It is a doctrine that has worked well for 37 years, was affirmed by Congress and the Supreme Court and only last month was reendorsed overwhelmingly by the Senate and the House of Representatives.

No less a conservative than Herbert Hoover, when the system of allocating frequencies was adopted in the 1920s, stressed:

"Radio communication is not merely a business for private gain, for advertising or for entertainment. It is a public concern impressed with the public trust."

The Fairness Doctrine is at the heart of the broadcasters' public trusteeship. Quite simply, it says that as trustees of the spectrum broadcasters must devote a reasonable amount of time to the presentation of controversial issues of public importance -- and do so fairly, by providing reasonable opportunity for differing viewpoints on the issues.

Is this too much to ask in exchange for an exclusive license that in today's TV facilities market can be worth hundreds of millions of dollars?

When former FCC chairman Mark Fowler first began attacking the doctrine, he suggested that broadcasters be required to pay license fees commensurate with the value of their licenses. This idea was quickly dropped.

Critics of the doctrine wrap themselves in the First Amendment. Yet the doctrine does not censor anything. On the contrary, in the words of the Supreme Court it adds to "the uninhibited marketplace of ideas. . . . It is the right of the viewers and listeners, not the right of the broadcasters, which is paramount."

Comparison with the print medium is invalid. Publishers are not granted by their government a highly profitable use of a limited public resource denied to all others. Newsprint is expandable. In this community, there are hundreds of small and large printing presses, thousands of mailing lists.

Air time, on the other hand, is rigidly finite. Anyone wishing to go on radio or TV must apply to a licensee for access. The broadcaster is the gatekeeper. As such, he accepts a duty to be fair in the presentation of issues. It is hard to overemphasize the importance of this responsibility at a time when most Americans receive most of their knowledge of news and viewpoints from radio and TV.

During our many years on the commission, we very seldom heard the actual station programmers complain of the doctrine. It parallels their own reasonable goals and, on occasion, provides them protection against extravagant pressures from special interest groups and advertisers. It did not "chill" Edward R. Murrow from attacking Sen. Joseph McCarthy. Nor do we believe it ever deterred any other serious commentator.

Regardless of what happens to the Fairness Doctrine codifying legislation, which President Reagan vetoed June 22, the doctrine in our view should, and will, continue to serve the public well until advances in technology make licensing no longer necessary.

ROBERT E. LEE Former Chairman Federal Communications Commission ABBOTT WASHBURN Former Commissioner Federal Communications Commission Washington