When battle lines are being drawn over the use of words, the way those words are reported takes on special importance. Several days ago the Federal Communications Commission -- in response to an explicit Congressional enactment -- established rules that will ban "indecent broadcasting" on a 24-hour basis unless a broadcaster can show an absence of children in the audience.

The Post reported {"FCC Bans All 'Indecent' Broadcasts," front page, July 13} that I drew a distinction between the commission action and that of recent government actions involving "2 Live Crew" and the Robert Mapplethorpe exhibits by saying: "Those are forms of censorship that are far more corrosive than what this commission is doing." I was, to say the least, startled to see myself so quoted.

I not only do not think the action against indecent broadcasting by Congress and the commission is corrosive, I used the word "corrosive" in commenting about how the popular media cover the subjects of obscenity and indecency.

Each article on actions against obscenity or indecency seems to carry an underlying assumption that the reader knows precisely what is at stake. People are then chosen to characterize the actions. The choice of people and quotes is often the pivotal choice in forming or attempting to shape the reader's attitude. The typical news story on FCC rulings during the past 12 months has reported the bare bones of the action and then quoted Sen. Jesse Helms as approving and somebody from the ACLU or a similar group as disapproving. Our actions, in short, have been stereotyped. The actual words or actions cited are almost never mentioned. The reader thus is left to imagine what the FCC found actionable.

I can understand why general circulation media might be hesitant to do more than sterilely characterize the material cited by the FCC. Typically, the material is raw and vulgar and highly offensive to almost everyone. But I would suggest that lyrics, for example, could be reprinted or broadcast with blanking or bleeping used to omit the most offensive words. And if the publisher or producer felt it necessary, he could flag the material as potentially offensive. The reader then, in the best tradition of free speech, could choose to read or not.

When people ask me to draw a distinction between the action by the Florida prosecutor, for example, against those who sell "2 Live Crew" albums and the FCC, I find the explanation quite easy. The courts have accorded the FCC some leeway, and Congress has directed the FCC to take action because broadcasting is different.

Broadcasting as its name implies is ubiquitous. TV and radio stations transmit electronic waves that can be captured, without exception, by anybody with a receiver. And statistics demonstrate that children are among the most likely audience.

The FCC is acting to protect children -- plain and simple. As one mother of four wrote to my colleague, Commissioner Ervin Duggan: "It is not a matter of my monitoring. A parent would have to be super-human to monitor every program that a child might watch both inside and outside the home."

The freedom to speak in all but the most egregious situations is fundamental. It carries with it, however, serious responsibilities. That is particularly true when the speaker is an important newspaper or TV network. The responsibility is to inform fully and objectively. ALFRED C. SIKES Chairman, Federal Communications Commission Washington