MOSCOW  - Lawmakers from Russia's ruling party on Friday submitted a bill to parliament that would qualify media companies that receive funding from abroad as foreign agents, along the lines of hugely controversial legislation on NGOs.The bill, submitted to the State Duma lower house by United Russia MPs Yevgeny Fedorov and Anton Romanov, would make media houses that receive over 50 percent of their income from abroad bear the label of "foreign agent".A new law making NGOs that receive funding from abroad register as foreign agents has already caused huge controversy, with rights activists seeing it as part of a bid by President Vladimir Putin to crack down on civil society.The sponsors of the foreign agent bill on media want to create a similar register for media companies that will have to carry the label.The label "foreign agent" does not directly implicate the organisation in espionage but does carry in Russian unequivocally negative connotations of unpatriotic behaviour.The bill on NGOs whizzed through parliament but the fate of the media bill is less certain as its level of support within the ruling party is unclear.State Duma deputy speaker Sergei Zheleznyak, a United Russia member, said that he saw no need for changes to existing media laws, the ITAR-TASS news agency reported.The first deputy leader of United Russia in parliament, Nikolai Bulayev, said that the sponsors of the bill had not discussed the proposed legislation with the party."It seems Fedorov prefers to act on his own and this bill was not offered for discussion. Naturally, this is the personal opinion of the deputy," Bulayev said, quoted by the party's press service. The head of the Kremlin's human rights council, Mikhail Fedotov, compared the law to setting down an "iron curtain" on the media scene and expressed confidence that Putin wanted to see a free media."Let them (the two United Russia MPs) understand what damage they are causing to the image of our country abroad," he said, quoted by the Interfax news agency.Bill sponsor Fedorov meanwhile defended the legislation, saying that the 50-percent funding threshold had been introduced to soften the original text and that media covering science, art and health would not fall under the law.