WAGA-TV first began operations on March 8, 1949. It was originally owned by Storer Broadcasting along with WAGA radio (originally at 1480 AM, now WYZE; and 102.9 FM, now WVEE). In the 50's, WAGA Radio had moved to 590 AM, running 5,000 watts full time from a three-tower antenna array located on North Druid Hills Road between Briarcliff and Lavista roads. WAGA Radio was sold to Plough, Inc. (now Shering-Plough) in 1959. WAGA Channel 5 was the second television station in Georgia, after WSB-TV. Originally a CBS affiliate, channel 5 also carried a secondary affiliation with the DuMont Television Network from 1949 to 1956. It also shared ABC with WSB-TV until WLWA-TV (now WXIA-TV) signed on in 1953. It is the only VHF commercial station in Atlanta still on its original channel.
WAGA-TV originally broadcast from studios and transmission facilities located at 1018 West Peachtree Street NW. This building would later became home to pioneering superstation/leading Atlanta independent WTBS channel 17 (now WPCH-TV). Sometime in the middle 1960s, the WAGA stations moved to their current facilities on Briarcliff Road NE on the DeKalb County side of Atlanta. The studio resembles an antebellum Southern mansion, a type of architecture that was typical for Storer's other broadcasting facilities. While this design was somewhat out of place in most of Storer's other markets, it was a perfect fit for Atlanta.
For many years, the station called its newscasts 5 News Scene. In the 1980s, this changed to Eyewitness News. The station's studios were used on location in the Matlock episode, "The Reporter", broadcast in 1987.
In 1985, WAGA, along with the other Storer stations, was sold in a group deal to Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., a New York-based private equity firm. Two years later, KKR sold the Storer stations to Gillett Communications. After bankruptcy, Gillett restructured in the early 1990s, selling several stations, and changing its name to SCI.
In 1992, WAGA ceased showing CBS This Morning in favor of a locally produced morning show, "Good Day Atlanta". Later that year, SCI filed for bankruptcy and put its stations on the market.
In 1993, New World Communications acquired the SCI stations, including WAGA. At the time, New World happened to be based out of Atlanta. Because of this, WAGA was made the flagship station of New World for a short period of time.
In 1994, New World announced an affiliation agreement with Fox. This deal resulted in most of New World's stations, including WAGA, switching to Fox beginning in September 1994. However, as in most New World markets, Fox Kids children's programming stayed on former Fox affiliate WATL-TV (channel 36), because WAGA was interested in airing more news. All but one station would retain its existing syndicated programming lineup. The lone exception was WGNX (channel 46, now WGCL-TV), which became the new CBS affiliate despite turning it down at first, and sold many of its syndicated shows over to WVEU (channel 69, now WUPA), which became a charter affiliate of the UPN network in early 1995 (eventually becoming a UPN O&O). In the meantime, WATL would become independent until 1995 when it became a charter affiliate of The WB Television Network. At that time, Fox finalized the sale of WATL to Qwest Broadcasting (which was controlled by musician Quincy Jones), which merged with WB part-owner Tribune Company in 2000.(the latter of which is now owned by Gannett Company).
The affiliation switch occurred in December 1994. At that point, WAGA's 45-year stint as a CBS affiliate came to an end. Before the switch, WAGA was the longest-tenured CBS affiliate south of Washington, D.C.; an honor now held by WBTV in Charlotte, North Carolina.
With the affiliation switch, WAGA poured more resources into its news department. As the FOX affiliate, channel 5 increased its news output to 40 hours a week. The 11:00 news moved to 10:00, and the station also ran first-run syndicated talk/reality shows, game shows and movies. It did not run any children's programming except for some educational shows on the weekends. Also, with the affiliation switch, WAGA remained the home station for the Atlanta Falcons. Fox had recently won the television rights to the National Football Conference of the NFL--a major reason why it sought an affiliation deal with New World. Since the Falcons play in the NFC, channel 5 had carried most Falcons games since the team's inception. In 2005, WAGA and the Falcons celebrated 40 years together.
Early in 1997, New World merged with FOX. Upon becoming a FOX-owned station (the second in Atlanta), the station rebranded itself as "FOX 5 Atlanta", per the network's branding guidelines. However, well into the 21st century, the copyright notice at the end of WAGA's newscast said the station was still owned by "New World Communications of Atlanta."
On March 26, 2007, WAGA debuted new graphics, set design, and theme music for all its daily newscasts. The news theme music is from OSI, and was adopted by other FOX O&O stations. The logo and graphics are similar to many other FOX O&O's across the nation.
On January 14, 2008, WAGA launched a new 11:00 newscast called Fox 5 News Edge hosted by former WSVN anchor Tom Haynes. It is similar to their sister station WTVT in Tampa and other Fox O&O's across the nation.